Essay #8: The Creative Power of Dreams

Evolution only continues a process over long periods of time if it is serving a useful and important function.  So why do we continue to dream at night?

This essay will cover:

  • The physiological reason we need to dream;
  • Dreams and the Right Hemisphere;
  • How dreams have inspired music, art and science;
  • The value of nightmares;
  • Some useful principles to enhance your dream work.
  • “The Magic Mirror” that never lies.


Before diving into the immense creative/liberating force that dreams provide, since this website is devoted to whole-brain thinking and an understanding of the distinction between the two hemispheres of our brains, let’s start with the important practical physiological/emotional function dreaming provides.

The “Safety Pressure Valve”

Every one of us dreams 4-6 times every night.  Obviously, we don’t remember the vast majority, so what is the biological function of the dream?  Turns out if we didn’t dream frequently every night, we’d probably go insane.

Thanks to 21st century computer-driven technology (EEG, MRI), sleep laboratories can now see inside the brains of volunteers while they are dreaming.   The dream state is associated with rapid eye movement (REM),

so, researchers know that when a volunteer’s sleep pattern stimulates the eyes to move underneath the eyelid, a dream is taking place.  Dream lab researchers also learned from seeing inside the brain and having the sleeping volunteers hooked up to electrodes measuring their vital organs, that just preceding the eyes going into REM activity, there is a burst of electrical energy originating in the brain stem.  When this burst of energy gets to the visual cortex, REM is generated and we’re on the way to a dream.  In addition to REM, the dream state induces a relaxation of our muscles, faster breathing and increased brain activity.

But this doesn’t answer the question:  What evolutionary reason did Nature’s Intelligence have for the brain generating dreams? One major reason was revealed in sleep labs when volunteers were awakened by researchers every time the computer screen showed they were entering the REM stage.  Within a few days these volunteers reported increased anxiety and depression compared to those awakened during non-REM sleep.

At the practical, physiological level, the dreaming process is analogous to a boiler which has a safety release valve.  The valve periodically releases pressure to ensure the tank doesn’t build up excessive pressure and explode.

During the day, no matter how positive events go for us, our unconscious mind, which determines well over 90 percent of our thoughts and behaviors, experiences high levels of stress, anxieties and warnings which build up pressure.  During the REM dreaming stage, regardless of the content of the dreams that night, a major function is to release some of the built-up stress/anxiety energy to help keep us safe from emotional overload.

This “safety-valve release” system also appears in many animals besides us humans. Scientists are almost certain other animals dream as they have the same capacity for REM sleep.  Dogs, cats, even reptiles have been studied to show their electrical brain patterns go into a similar REM stage as we do.  (Here is an incredible video  of a mother cat calming her sleeping kitten who whose paws are in rapid motion as if having a nightmare).

But is the “safety-valve release” the only reason we dream?


Dreams & the Right Hemisphere

The practical function of dreams as a safety release valve relates more closely to the left hemisphere of our brains.  But there is substantial evidence over centuries and millennia attesting to the creative, psychospiritual function of dreams.

To understand and appreciate the more enlightened function of our dreams requires a shift to a more right-hemisphere view as now we work with and play with more confusing, mysterious, byzantine imagery and story lines.

And it is worth asking why nature’s intelligence, through the evolutionary twists and turns out of which we emerged, set up our brains physiologically to be more directly connected to the streams of messages percolating up from our unconscious.

As noted in the book which greatly inspired this right brain network website, “The Master and his Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World”, Dr. Iain McGilchrist writes:

“…during REM sleep and dreaming there is greatly increased blood flow in the right hemisphere, particularly the temporoparietal region. EEG coherence data also point to the predominance of the right hemisphere in dreaming.”


He then adds,

“When we remember that it is the right hemisphere that succeeds in bringing us in touch with whatever is new by an attitude of receptive openness to what is—by contrast with the left hemisphere’s view that it makes new things actively, by willfully putting them together bit by bit—it seems that here, too, is evidence , if any further were needed, that the right hemisphere is more true to the nature of things.”


That the right hemisphere is more stimulated by and receptive to the mysteries of the unconscious in general, dreams in particular, should come as no surprise to those who have read previous essays in this section.  For while both hemispheres are clearly essential in our lives, since the left hemisphere is more attuned to verbal language information which can be analyzed rationally, the right hemisphere is more open to  non-verbal language and much more receptive  to play with the more uncertain, at first opaque and often ambiguous nature of the language of dreams.

What I have learned from my over 20 years of studying the nature of dreams, leading dream groups and working my own dreams  is a powerful paradox:  While on the one hand, we can learn much about how dreams communicate important, life-enhancing messages to our conscious minds (as will be presented in this essay), at the same time, it is the very darkness and mysteriousness of dream contents that are important to meet on their own grounds, whether or not we come to understand them.

Creative / Life-Enhancing Guides

History has provided us with clear proof of how dreams have inspired great music, art and spiritual breakthroughs.  Some noted examples:

Paul McCartney, “Yesterday”

The melody for the most-covered song in music history came from a dream.  Here is Paul’s account:

“I was living in a little flat at the top of a house and I had a piano by my bed. I woke up one morning with a tune in my head and I thought, ‘Hey, I don’t know this tune – or do I?’ It was like a jazz melody. My dad used to know a lot of old jazz tunes; I thought maybe I’d just remembered it from the past. I went to the piano and found the chords to it, made sure I remembered it and then hawked it round to all my friends, asking what it was: ‘Do you know this? It’s a good little tune, but I couldn’t have written it because I dreamt it.’”

Interesting note:  The original title Paul came up with for the dreamt tune was “Scrambled Eggs.”  Why such an irrational, offbeat title? Paul never explicitly says, but given the power of the unconscious mind communicating through dreams, can it be just a coincidence that “scrambled” are often how we would describe the often confusing, irrational nature of our dreams and that the “egg” is such an apt metaphor for the fertility of dream content?

“The Persistence of Memory”

Salvador Dali called his world-famous depiction of melting pocket watches a “dream photograph.”  The article “The Story Behind Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory”   reveals that:

“The melted versions of typically hard objects portray the fine line between a dream state and a real state. Dali sought to paint the dream world itself and mastered unique ways of bringing dreams into the real world.”


Jekyll & Hyde

One of the most famous novels in all literature, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”came to Robert Louis Stevenson during a dream.

According to his essay, “A Chapter on Dreams” (he racked his brains for an idea for a story and had a dream, and upon waking had the intuition for two or three scenes that would appear in the story Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Biographer Graham Balfour quoted Stevenson’s wife Fanny Stevenson: 

In the small hours of one morning, […] I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare, I awakened him. He said angrily: ‘Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.’ I had awakened him at the first transformation scene.”


Dreaming the Atom

While it is not surprising that surrealist art and a surrealist work of literature would be inspired by dreams, dreams are responsible for major scientific breakthroughs.

Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and one of the founders of quantum mechanics (I discussed his love of the spiritual yin/yang symbol in Essay #7) reported that he first saw his vision of how atoms were structured in a dream:

“Bohr often spoke of the inspirational dream that led to his discovery of the structure of the atom, in turn making him the father of quantum mechanics. Reportedly, Bohr dreamed about a horse race in which the marked lanes on the racetrack were just like the fixed and specific orbits that electrons travel around the nucleus of the atom. After waking up from this vision, he ventured to his lab and searched for scientific evidence to support his theory, and voila — his dream of atomic structure later landed him a Nobel Prize for Physics.”


Industrial Revolution Hangs by a Thread

One of most influential dreams in human history came from a particularly horrifying nightmare.

Unless you are reading this essay naked or are wearing totally hand-made clothing, the intense nightmare which inspired the solution to the first effective sewing machine has an influence on you right now.

It’s easy to forget that before the sewing machine was invented in 1846, making a shirt would take around 14 hours.  A dress, almost 7 hours. The new invention totally transformed the clothing and shoe industries, making good clothing available to the majority of people, not just the rich and privileged.  And it helped kick off the Industrial Revolution which would so expansively define modern history.

The nightmare experienced by Elias Howe in 1846, as do virtually all nightmares if we are willing to explore them deeply, contained the insightful shift needed to solve what was then the vexing issue of creating an efficient, effective sewing machine.  My dream teacher, Dr. Jeremy Taylor loved recounting  Howe’s nightmare as a teaching tale of how nightmares can be such rich resources:

“Howe had been struggling to invent a machine that would sew with the same speed and efficiency as Hargreaves’ and Cartwright’s new machines would spin and weave, but with no success. As the tale goes, exhausted by frustration, Howe fell asleep at his workbench one night and had this dream:

He is in Africa, fleeing from cannibals through the jungle. Despite his frantic efforts to escape, the natives capture him, tie him up hand and foot, and carry him back to their village slung from a pole. There they dump him into a huge iron pot full of water. They light a fire under the pot and start to boil him alive.

As the water starts to bubble and boil around him, he discovers that the ropes have loosened enough for him to work his hands free. He tries repeatedly to take hold of the edge of the pot and haul himself out of the hot water, but every time he manages to heave himself up over the edge of the pot, the natives reach across over the flames and forcibly poke him back down into the pot again with their sharp spears.

When Howe awoke from this “nightmare,” much of his mind was absorbed with sorting through the emotions of the dream–but another part was able to note with objectivity, “That’s odd–those spears all have holes in the points….” As Howe came more fully awake, he thought, “Holes in the points… holes in the points! That’s it! That’s the answer!

As he awoke, Howe realized that the trick to making his sewing machine work was to move the thread transport hole up to point of the needle (as opposed to a handheld needle, where the hole is on the base). It then was a relatively simple matter to design a system of gears that would cause the needle to poke the thread down through the layers of cloth, wrap it around a second thread, and then pull it up again, all very neatly and efficiently. And with the invention of the sewing machine, the last bottleneck to the mechanical production of clothing was broken–this dream leads very directly to the realization of the industrial revolution!”


The key to Howe uncovering the deeper meaning of his nightmare was managing to overcome the discomfort, re-play the dream in his mind and feel the importance of its key image: the hole in the spears. This points to (pun intended) a good strategy when awakening from a dream: Identify a particular image or action that is most perplexing or emotionally powerful and re-play that part of the dream it in your mind a few times or more until an insight or felt intuition emerges.


“Training Films for Spiritual Warriors”

Dr. Jeremy Taylor explains the above phrase  on his website:

 “Whenever any dream is remembered, it is an indication that the waking mind has a creative, transformative role to play in the evolution of whatever issue the dream is presenting. For millions of years, the ability to pay immediate and focused attention to nasty, threatening stuff has been a primary survival test. The creatures who pay effective attention to threats tend to survive, and the ones who don’t tend not to survive. In this way, we have been shaped by natural selection to be inherently predisposed to pay attention to ugly, scary, and menacing experiences.”

At the same time, American culture in particular prefers to promote the Hallmark Card/soften the blow/feel-good palliatives to the direct/uncomfortable reality check.  As Jeremy discovered in his decades of globe-trotting dream work, nightmares are among the most powerful guides we have towards inner psychospiritual growth, if we learn to unpack their hidden meanings. (Any of Jeremy’s books are great place to start).

Given the mind-bending shock of the sped up, globally connected data barrage of the current information age, exacerbated as I write this by over a year in which for the first time in human history, major economies and cultural societies shut down to deal with a virus, facing up to and finding the hidden meanings in our nightmares becomes, as Jeremy puts it, a “primary survival test.”

One of the first principles of dream work Jeremy teaches, one I and the others participating in his dream groups can attest,is that all dreams, including the most frightening nightmares, come as Jeremy puts it, “in the spirit of health and wholeness.”  This requires a shift to a more right-hemisphere proclivity for imagination and novel insight.  While dreams can be analyzed in a more left-hemisphere, linear/associative way, to get to the core of a deep dream, particularly a nightmare, calls for a more intuitively creative re-playing of the dream to see and feel what novel insights emerge.

Jeremy writes:

“Ironically, for this reason I take heart every time I have (or hear about) a dream that involves large, planet-wide problems like destruction of the environment, plague, military conflict, or other massive disruption of society. The fact that we remember such dreams suggests that we are able to respond creatively and effectively to these problems, in the same fashion that dreams addressing seemingly “insoluble” personal problems always indicate our ability to deal with those problems. Nightmares may also provide symbolic suggestions and specific creative inspirations, provided we have the wit and wisdom to pay attention.”


Embedded in this perception is one of Jeremy’s key principles for doing effective dream work:  If we weren’t capable of dealing with a dream, our psyche would have protected us by not letting us remember it.  Once remembered, its hidden ‘gold’ can be retrieved.

Jeremy writes:

“The worst case dream calls upon the dreamer not only to see and accept the depths of depravity that reside in every human psyche, but even more importantly, to become more conscious of and responsible for our ability to face, overcome, and give transformative, creative, and spiritual expression to those archetypal shadow energies.”


For those familiar with the insights of Carl Jung, the most famous psychologist of the 20th century, you can detect in Jeremy’s words the Jungian influence of “shadow” and “archetype.”

What’s significant here is the calling on us to face our own shadow energies, those dark, primal fears genetically and culturally inherent in our brains. For when we face those personal “shadows,” they not only lose their fearful power over us, but often reveal insights and meanings which can lead to a major breakthrough.

One of my favorite insights from Jeremy on the importance of frightening and uncomfortable nightmares:

“Another way of looking at such dreams is that they are “rescue missions” undertaken by the dreaming psyche in the as-yet-unredeemed depths of the collective unconscious.”


The right hemisphere comes into play here because while the left hemisphere is skilled at analyzing dreams, to get to the deeper levels often requires more imagination, intuitive feel and, most importantly, a willingness to be open to total surprise.



Dark Humor

As I became more experienced working my own dreams and those within dream groups,  I discovered an interesting characteristic:  Often our dreams, particularly the most frightening and confusing ones, can be more fully understood by looking for the hidden humor or deep joke, like a Zen Koan, a banana peel put in our path to help us “slip into” a transformational insight.

Here is my favorite experience with such a dream.

About 10 years ago, a close friend of mine called me up, sounding quite anxious, and asked if I could come over right away and help him understand a nightmare he had. I was surprised to get the call since he had never showed an interest in dreams over the many years I had known him.

He told me that for the past few days he had been suffering from intense stomach pain and could barely get out of bed.  He had a great mistrust of doctors and despite his wife’s pleas to let her drive him to the emergency room, he wouldn’t budge.  He felt somewhat better that morning, but had experienced the mysterious nightmare.

Here is the dream:

I’m at a resort of some kind.  I’ve never been here before.  I’m finishing up dinner in the café on the premises and pay my bill.  I suddenly feel exhausted and head to my room for a good night’s sleep.  But as I walk down the hallway of guest suites, I’m confused by the fact that there are no numbers on any of the doors and I can’t remember which is my room. I keep staring at these doors with no numbers and wake up distressed and anxious.


The way I was taught dreams is take on the dream as if it were my own, and discuss the dream from this point of view rather than say something like, “This is what your dream means.” (This will be clarified towards the end of the essay when discussing Jeremy Taylor’s Essential Principles for Dream Work.)

Like any good story, the opening scene often introduces the main theme.  First, I mentioned to my friend that if this were my dream and I was experiencing intense stomach pain in waking life, it’s interesting that “I’m finishing up dinner.”  Obviously in the dream, there is no physical stomach pain and I was able to digest my meal. In addition, “I pay my bill,”  which in my version of the dream is a metaphor for a willingness to take responsibility for (“pay the bill”) whatever is making me anxious in waking life.

Note:  This important start to the working of the dream can be credited to left-hemisphere logical thinking and analyzing the relationship between finishing a meal and paying the ball in the dream to the anxious situation in waking life.

While I could see from my friend’s body language that he was somewhat relieved at this insight, I knew it was the mysterious missing of numbers on the doors that needed to be addressed. And this would require a shift to the right hemisphere potential to enter into mystery, volatility and ambiguity while waiting for an insight to emerge.

When facing a mysterious aspect of a dream such as the missing numbers on the guest suites at this dream resort, it’s helpful to ask oneself (or the person whose offered the dream) clarifying questions. So, I asked:

“Did you notice anything else different about the doors other than the missing numbers?

And “What kind of carpeting or flooring did the resort hallway have?

My friend responded, “No, all I remember is numbers on the doors and not being able to find my room.”

I felt pressure to help him and come up some kind of useful insight, but felt stuck. Then I remembered how that I was able to get to an “AHA!” moment of recognition from working some of the more bizarre dreams I had experienced by looking for a hidden joke. As previously mentioned, many dreams contain puns and comical twists which, if uncovered, lead to insight.

I closed my eyes and as  I re-played in my mind walking down the dream hallway without any numbers on the doors, it hit me—and I must have visibly smiled for my friend asked, “What’s so funny?”

I opened my eyes and said, “If this was my dream, it’s coming to tell me I’m not going to die from this stomach pain.

“How do you get that? He asked incredulously.

“Because the missing numbers on the doors means ‘my number’s not up yet.”

My friend laughed out loud and the next day, feeling less anxious, saw a doctor who told him he was suffering from a strong case of stomach flu and would recover with a few more days of rest.

Useful Principles for Dream Work

Whether working with your own dream or in conversation with others about their dreams, here are five key principles which Dr. Jeremy Taylor advocated, followed by some that I add based on my experience.   The key principles Jeremy advocated:

All dreams speak a universal language and come in the service of health and wholeness. There is no such thing as a bad  dream–only dreams that sometimes take a dramatically negative form in order to grab our attention.

Only the dreamer can say with any certainty what meanings his or her dream may have. This certainty usually comes in the form of a wordless “Aha!” of recognition. This “Aha” is a function of memory, and is the only reliable touchstone of  dream work.

There is no such thing as a dream with only one meaning. All dreams and dream images are “overdetermined,” and have multiple meanings and layers of significance.

No dreams come just to tell you what you already know. All dreams break new ground and invite you to new understandings and insights.

When talking to others about their dreams, it is both wise and polite to preface your remarks with words to the effect of ‘in my imagined version of the dream…’ and to keep this commentary in the first person as much as possible. This means that even relatively challenging comments can be made in such a way that the dreamer may actually be able to hear and internalize them. It also can become a profound psycho-spiritual discipline – ‘walking a mile in your neighbor’s moccasins.’

My additions (all of which Jeremy agreed with.  He chose to highlight the ones above).

A short dream fragment can be just as meaningful as a long, narrative dream. Dreams have a “holographic” quality, meaning any one key symbol, action or event when re-played and actively encountered, can open up the greater meaning of the entire dream.

Dreams often use puns, satire and black humor to enlighten us. Discovering the hidden humor in a dream is often a profound and transformative experience.

Every dream is both unique to the dreamer and, at the same time, often has a more universal level, connecting into what Carl Jung referred to as the “Collective Unconscious.”

All dreams live in the present and so it is helpful to write down the dream in the present tense and consider the actions to be happening now, even if you are working on a powerful dream from many years ago.

A dream dictionary is a good place to start, poor place to end.  While it is helpful to know, for example, that water in a  dream almost always refers to the “emotional state” of the dreamer, it’s important to note the specific details of the water in each dream:  Does the dream take place in a private pool, a pristine lake, a dirty bathtub, at the beach?

In other words, while noting the accepted meanings of various symbols from a dream dictionary (left-hemisphere strategy) it’s important to shift to the right-hemisphere’s ability to dive beneath the surface of the known meanings to the unknown, creative, ambiguous depth to see and feel what might emerge. That’s often how the “AHA!” moment is unveiled.



Jeremy Taylor’s great phrase for the creative power of dreams is:

“The Magic Mirror that never lies.”

This “Magic Mirror” may not always reveal its hidden truths…but truths remain there to be uncovered.  For really “big” dreams (to be discussed in the next essay), it may take days, weeks, months or years before a full “AHA!” is achieved. The good news is that by writing down, contemplating and talking about our dreams, this tends to generate additional dreams which build on previous ones and start to reveal recurring patterns which are quite useful to identify.

A final word from Jeremy Taylor:

“Initially, it always seems as though the most difficult task faced by the dreamer is to look into the ‘magic mirror that never lies’ and take more responsibility for the symbolic reflections of our weaknesses and failures. However, over time, it becomes clear that an even more challenging task is to acknowledge the size and scope of our creative gifts and our ability to transform ourselves and our world. The worst case dream calls upon the dreamer not only to see and accept the depths of depravity that reside in every human psyche, but even more importantly, to become more conscious of and responsible for our ability to face, overcome, and give transformative, creative, and spiritual expression to those archetypal shadow energies.”


This “Magic Mirror” that never lies is at the forefront of our evolutionary push forward.  I say this based on an “AHA!” moment I experienced in of the dozens of dream group weekends I participated in with Jeremy and a group of interested dream workers:

We were working a particularly dark, powerful dream submitted by one of our group.  There was a distinct “heaviness” in the air as we took turns projecting our insights into possible meanings of the dream when Jeremy broke in and said:

“These dreams are so powerful, and sometimes overwhelming, because they aren’t just our dream…they’re the dreams of our parents and their parents and their parent…”

This is something all of us already know. The genes we inherit from our parents contain not just memories of their unresolved traumas, challenges, successes, emotional blocks…but of their parents and so on, right down the generational lines…and as I’ll discuss in the next essay, our individual dreams are  not just about us and whatever was passed down from our genealogical lines, but each dream has, on some level, a universal meaning connecting to what Carl Jung identified as “the collective unconscious.”

To connect the insight that our dreams are not just ours to the first principle about dreams brought up in this essay:

On the physiological level, dreaming provides an emotional safety release valve so that at night our brains can release some of the pressure built up by the tensions and stresses we experience each day.  Nature’s intelligence gave us (and many animals) this physiological release valve.  But it gave us humans a higher form of consciousness which, if we choose to exercise it, can unlock the deeper meanings and inherent truths our dream come to offer.

So, when we choose to write down our dreams, re-play them, contemplate their deeper meanings, share the dream with others, we are taking on the immensely valuable work of “consciously” liberating the hidden depths of not only our individual dreams, but those unworked out emotional and even spiritual blocks passed on to us from our ancestors as well as consciously freeing up previously locked down psychospiritual insights of the collective unconscious.

On the personal level, dream work offers opportunities for emotional and spiritual liberation.

On the larger, collective level, dreams offer a glimpse into the potential reason higher levels of consciousness emerged into our brains:  A calling to consciously work out the deeper meaning of our existence and the best ways to influence evolution moving forward.

This is what I feel Jeremy Taylor was getting at by referring to dreams as “training films for spiritual warriors.”

Dreamwork offers both tools for personal liberation and for advancing conscious evolution.  This includes not only the immense satisfaction of the “AHA!” moment of recognition into the deep meaning of a dream, but just as importantly, the willingness to let the dark currents of the dream’s inherent mystery wash over us, whether we understand it or not.



Enjoy the following quotes and links:


“That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man, even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it…. We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within ourself.



“Dreams are the guiding words of the soul. Why should I henceforth not love my dreams and not make their riddling images into objects of my daily consideration?

Carl Jung


Essay #7: Global Brain Emerging?

In the Mission Statement of this Right Brain Network website is a proposed equation for contemplation:

NI (Nature’s Intelligence) + HI (Human Intelligence) + AI (Computer Intelligence) + = ???

Of these three major forms of intelligence now interacting for the first time in human evolution, the most powerful and influential is NI (Nature’s Intelligence).

Of course, we forget this almost all the time.  For the past 500 years or so modern civilization has been overly balanced towards the left-hemisphere of the brain’s focus on being separate from nature and able, perceiving it as an object to manipulate for our material benefits.  This is most powerful insight from Dr. Iain McGilchrist, author of “The Master and is Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World,” the book which inspired this Right Brain Network project.

We are clearly not separate from nature.

We were born out of nature’s intelligence and live within its complex, self-organizing system. As evolution biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris writes,

“We are natural creatures which have evolved inside a great life system.  Whatever we do that is not good for life, the rest of the system will try to undo or balance in any way it can.”

The current viral pandemic and significantly more devastating climate change are proof.

When looking into what might be emerging from the enfolding  dynamic of NI + HI + AI, a good place to start is the principle of self-organization–the fascinating ability of totally new paradigms to be generated from complex interactions.  Here is a beautiful, intriguing 2-minute video of Nature’s self-organization in action:











Inside the Self-Organizing Universe

The fuel that has been driving evolution is self-organization or what many scientists refer to as “Emergence.”  Self-organization/Emergence is an underlying process in which complex, local interactions (cells in our bodies, people navigating traffic, birds in flight) spontaneously, with no external command or instruction, somehow form an overall order far greater than the individual elements giving rise to it.

Our nervous systems and brains function through self-organization all the time at the unconscious level.  For the evolutionary leap (into the Next Renaissance?), this under the surface, virtually invisible, self-organizing principle needs to be brought more into the light of consciousness.

In 2003, biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris gave a talk called “After Darwin:  Reuniting Spirituality with Science in order to Form a New World View.”  The excerpts which follow are from the transcript of that talk

This first excerpt shows Dr. Sahtouris; reliance on a right-hemisphere perspective:

“…trained as a western scientist I came to feel that the world view I was taught was too narrow, like a suit one had outgrown, and was searching for the broader context for what a Western science would be. I’ve been working on that now for quite a few decades and have come to the view that consciousness is not a late emergent product of a material evolution but the exact opposite, the source of all material evolution. So, I’ve come to believe that spirituality and science were separated only for historic reasons and that it’s time now to reunite them in a single world view that can encompass the best of our spiritual traditions and the best of our scientific traditions.”


Leaving aside for now that we have different takes on what spirituality is, the key point here is the calling for a “broader context,” in which to view science.  She identifies the shift in perspective which has taken place among many biologists who know that the standard definition of biological life, “survival of the fittest” in a competitive zero-sum game paradigm, needs to be broadened.

As for her insight that “consciousness is not a late emergent product of a material evolution but the exact opposite, the source of all material evolution,” while still a minority view among most mainstream scientists, it has been attracting more adherents from within the realm of science over the past 50 years.  We will address this issue more in future essays, but my own intuitive sense is in agreement that mind/consciousness is not simply a by- product of the brain’s activity (materialist perspective), but, that consciousness/mind-like qualities are an inherent, emergent quality of nature itself (and the universe out of which Earth’s nature was born). And so this and other essays in this Next Renaissance section are based on the paradigm that our brains operate from within this larger context of Mind/Intelligence.

Note: An interesting analogy here is the synaptic leap required by our ancestors during the  Italian Renaissance when in 1543 astronomer Nicolas Copernicus provided empirical evidence that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth, but the earth was one of a number of planets revolving around the sun.  In depth psychological terms, the human ego had to give up its inflated sense of being the center of the universe and adapt to the reality Earth was part of a much more vast, complex solar system.



Here in the 21st Century, as we head towards the next evolutionary leap, we will be required to develop a bigger picture of how our brains fit into the fast-expanding, interrelated, global network of the World Wide Web.

Dr. Sahtouris writes,

We have a new definition of life in biology in the last few decades called autopoiesis [from the Greek, meaning self-creation], which means that a living entity is one that continually creates itself. This is very unlike a machine which is created from the outside by an inventor, given its rules of operation, and usually in a hierarchic arrangement and has to be reinvented to have generations of technology rather than being able to reinvent itself in an evolutionary trajectory.”


“Autopoiesis” is part of the self-organization principle.  And the description Dr. Sahtouris provides is filled with right-hemisphere qualities: “continually creates itself,” as contrasted with “hierarchic arrangement” which requires outside instructions in order to “reinvent.”

As discussed in a previous essay, in the new VUCA strategy being adapted to meet the current hyper-speed, digitalized, globalizing effects of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, we are called upon to develop a mind-set that resonates with nature’s inherent biologic intelligence, which in Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris’ words,  is nature’s ability to “reinvent itself in an evolutionary trajectory.”

She describes the inherent self-organizing intelligence of the DNA which created us:

“We know now there are what biologists call repair genes. When there’s accidental damage to the genome it is immediately repaired. Otherwise these errors would build up and you wouldn’t be able to function for a whole lifetime. We now know there are editor genes when DNA is copied that make sure it’s copied correctly. There are repair genes fixing any damage done so again we have to give up the Darwinian notion that evolution occurs through accidents and trust that the genome is intelligent. We see it’s intelligent.”

“We have a hundred trillion cells in our bodies and each one of them has thirty thousand recycling centers renewing our proteins. They’re so hi-tech that they can take in a protein, disassemble it, build a new protein (perhaps an entirely different kind) and issue the new protein. That’s as if we could stick trees into a chipper machine and get a live tree out the other side. Very hi-tech! We’re not nearly as hi-tech yet, as our own internal microworld.”

“We have a great deal to learn from nature…”



Dr. Sahtouris is one of a number of scientists dedicated to teaching a more expansive understanding of nature’s intelligence, out of which we emerged, yet to which humanity over the past 500 years has become separated from through the overemphasis of the left-hemisphere focus of perceiving nature as an object to be analyzed and taken from, over the much needed right-hemisphere intuitive understanding of being ‘embedded’ within nature’s intelligence, in tune with its underlying currents.


Repeating the two-key theme of this essay:

  • We human beings, for the first time in evolutionary history, are living in a world generated out of three forms of intelligence: Nature’s Intelligence (NI), our own Human Intelligence (HI) and Computer Intelligence (AI)
  • AI emerged out of the human brain, we emerged out of Nature’s Intelligence.  And Nature’s Intelligence operates to a great extent through a process called self-organization, described earlier as “complex, local interactions (cells in our bodies, birds in flight, humans collaborating on the Web) spontaneously, with no external command or instruction, capable of generating totally new orders of complexity.


AI, Philosophy & Spirit

Two of the leading experts in computer science who seek a bigger picture of the self-organizing potential of the World Wide Web to enrich our philosophical and spiritual understanding are Dr. Ben Goertzel   and  Dr. Francis Heylighen

Ben Goertzel is a renowned computer scientist, AI researcher and founder of the SingularityNET Foundation.  Francis Heylighen is a physicist who leads the Evolution, Complexity and COgnition group at the Free University of Brussels where he is also associated with the Department of History, Art and Philosophy.  They are both part of a collaborative called the Global Brain Institute which looks at the emergent properties of World Wide Web.

(Note:  Most of what they talk and write about is much to technical for me to understand—my interest is philosophy and depth psychology and so I will tease out those aspects from what they have written.  That said, I find it stimulating and a good exercise for my brain to read material which forces a stretching out into unfamiliar territory, regardless of how much of the content I can understand on an empirical level, a characteristic much more attuned to the right-hemisphere.

Also, the concept of a Global Brain or Global Mind easily evokes images from grade B science fiction and fantasy…particularly when we forget the distinction between the projected fear of a super computer running the world like a human autocrat as compared to more grounded predictions from two researchers  steeped in math, computer science and philosophy as to what kind of  networked-based, distributed intelligence will emerge  out of  the expanding, connected network of humans and AI).

Dr. Goertzel writes

The  WebMind system…would be an independent intelligent entity on its own, interacting with humans, but fundamentally separate from them. This is what I call Phase One of the global Web mind; and it will be, in itself, an incredibly exciting development. It will be our first opportunity ever to interact with a highly intelligent nonhuman being. And it will be an opportunity to understand ourselves more deeply, by seeing the subtle patterns of our own collective mind come to life.”


Here Ben makes the important shift from viewing AI as a competing force threatening human intelligence to viewing AI as an evolutionary new form of intelligence now capable of not only recording and accessing the entire history of human knowledge, but capable of teaching itself independent of human-imposed rules). And, included in this shift of perception is the fact that we can use AI to in Ben’s words, “understand ourselves more deeply, by seeing the subtle patterns of our own collective mind come to life.”

A big question hovering over this discussion:  Can certain powerful corporations or governments control in an organized way how this potential Global Web Mind will operate?  While clearly Google, Facebook, Amazon have significant control over their individual domains, Ben writes,


“The Web, by its very nature, is not under anyone’s control: there is no way to enforce intelligence on it from above. If one is to influence its evolution toward intelligence, one must be subtler. One must use complexity, parallelism and self-organization to seduce the Web toward greater intelligence.”

Again, given the left-hemisphere’s need to control territory, there will clearly be attempts by massive AI corporations to dominate the emerging “WebMind System.” But one of the key characteristics of self-organizing processes is their unpredictability and strong drive to evolve from the bottom-up rather than from the top down.

In an interview Dr. Goertzel conducted with Dr. Heylighen we get the latter’s perspective on this emerging Global Brain/Mind:


“The global brain (GB) is a collective intelligence formed by all people on the planet together with their technological artifacts (computers, sensors, robots, etc.) insofar as they help in processing information. The function of the global brain is to integrate the information gathered by all its constituents, and to use it in order to solve problems, as well for its individual constituents as for the global collective. By ‘solving problems’ I mean that each time an individual or collective (including humanity as a whole) needs to do something and does not immediately know how to go about it, the global brain will suggest a range of more or less adequate approaches. As the intelligence of the GB increases, through the inclusion of additional sources of data and/or smarter algorithms to extract useful information from those data, the solutions it offers will become better, until they become so good that any individual human intelligence pales in comparison.”


Commenting on the important question as to who or what might gain control of the future and dictate its terms, Dr. Heylighen responds,


“For me the issue of freedom in the GB is very simple: you will get as much (or as little) as you want. We do not always want freedom: often we prefer that others make decisions for us, so that we just can follow the lead. In those situations, the global brain will make a clear recommendation that we can just follow without too much further worry. In other cases, we prefer to think for ourselves and explore a variety of options before we decide what we really want to do. In such a case too, the GB will oblige, offering us an unlimited range of options, arranged approximately in the order of what we are most likely to prefer, so that we can go as far as we want in exploring the options.”



What we already see evolving on the Web is the contrast between private, AI corporations (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM) based on competition, placing profit first and therefore protecting the privacy of its patented algorithms and what is called “Open Source” entities such as Wikipedia, which are based on collaboration, where the underlying AI architecture is publicly available and anyone can contribute to the end result.  If you’re looking for a sign confirming a more optimistic view, consider that the individual who invented the software protocols which created the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, chose not to patent his paradigm-shifting software for private gain, but instead made it open-source.

Despite his optimism, Dr. Heylighen understands that even before the World Wide Web ever existed, most humans prefer not to make challenging choices, but defer to what we’ve been taught or what the culture determines is the right way to live.  So, the issue of “freedom” will remain a choice we have to make to follow the path less predictable, more uncertain, but potentially more creative and soul-fulfilling:


“Culture is already a collective intelligence or GB, except that it reacts and evolves much more slowly than the one we envisage as emerging from the Internet. As you hint at, the risk of having a more interactive GB is that people will have less time to question its suggestions. On the other hand, the GB as I envisage it is by design more explicit than the subconscious conditioning of our culture, and therefore it is easier (a) to remember that its opinions are not our own; (b) to effectively examine and analyze the rationale for these opinions, and if necessary reject them.”


Another complex, fascinating and significant question is whether super intelligent AI can ever at any level become “self-conscious,” a quality in large part responsible for us being the most intelligent species on the planet.  Dr. Heylighen responds to this question:

“Certainly, self-reflection appears like a useful feature for the GB to have. Again, this does not seem to be so tricky to implement, as we, in our role of components of the GB, are at this very moment reflecting about how the GB functions and how this functioning could be improved… Moreover, decades ago already AI researchers have developed programs that exhibited a limited form of self-improvement by monitoring and manipulating their own processing mechanisms.”


Bringing the subject down to a practical level, Dr. Heylighen, responding to the question as to what technologies exist right now that might be pushing towards the emergence of a Global Brain lists 21st century digital tools most all of use every day…to our left hemisphere, they are marvelous technologies which offer immense convenience and nearly instantaneous connection.  But if we let the imaginative/big-picture/paradigm-shifting capacity of our right-hemispheres to contemplate just how novel and intricate these everyday tools could be self-organizing into some yet-to-be transcendent intelligence, what comes up?

Dr. Heylighen cite:


1. wikis

“(and related editable community websites) provide a very simple and intuitive medium for people to develop collective knowledge… Wikipedia is the most successful example: in ten years’ time it developed from nothing into the largest public knowledge repository ever conceived, which may soon contain the sum of all human knowledge.”

2. collaborative filtering (aka recommendation systems)

“This is the technology (based on closely guarded algorithms) used by sites such as YouTube and Amazon to recommend additional books, videos or other items on the basis of what you liked, and what others like you have liked previously. Unlike wikis, this is a collective intelligence technology that relies on implicit data, on information that was rarely consciously entered by any individual, but that can be derived relatively reliable from what that user did (such as ordering certain books, or watching certain videos rather than others). If wiki editing is similar to the rational, conscious reflection in the brain, collaborative filtering is similar to the subconscious, neural processes of selective strengthening of links and spreading activation.”

3. Smartphones

“make it possible to tap into the global brain at any time and any place. From simple person-to-person communication devices, these have morphed into universal, but still simple and intuitive interfaces that connect you to all the information that is globally available. This adds a very practical real-time dimension to GB problem-solving…Thanks to in-built sensing technologies, such as a GPS, a compass, a camera and a microphone, a smart phone can first determine your local context (e.g. you are standing in front of the Opera building at sunset facing West while hearing some music playing in the background), then send that information to the GB together with any queries you may have…”


The need to shift to a more right-hemisphere perception of the self-organizing potential of exponentially expanding digital network intelligence and how we might best adapt it to our knowledge and insight into how we best fit into nature’s intelligence is illuminated by Peter Russell.  Author of the book “The Global Brain Awakens,” Russell, who holds degrees in theoretical physics, computer science and psychology writes:


Western science sometimes finds it difficult to address the notion of emergent orders of existence.  This is because one of the principle ways in which it has tried to understand the world is to break phenomena and processes down into smaller units, using what is called the reductionist approach.  Although valuable in some areas, such as physical chemistry, engineering, and computer programming, it has the drawback that emergent qualities of the whole system are usually lost or not dealt with.”



 A key insight which generated this look into the potential of an emerging Global Brain came from evolution biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris presented at the beginning of this essay:


“We are natural creatures which have evolved inside a great life system.  Whatever we do that is not good for life, the rest of the system will try to undo or balance in any way it can.” 

In addition to calling on us to consider how our actions are adversely affecting nature’s inherent move towards “balance,” it reminds us that we are born out of this evolutionary intelligence, which we forget when stuck in the left-hemisphere’s need to objectify (separate away from) and perceive nature as an object to analyze and take from, rather than grow from within it.

If a Global Brain or Global Mind is emerging out of the self-organizing complexity of the World Wide Web, it will have totally novel, mind-boggling characteristics we can’t even begin to comprehend by adding up all of the elements involved.  For any leap in self-organizing complexity is based on “The Whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”

One way to contemplate it is from the perspective Dr. Sahtouris suggests: “We are natural creatures which have evolved inside a great life system.”  If a Global Brain is emerging, will we will be inside of it, part of its distributive intelligence?  Or as Dr. Goertzel suggests, will it be an advanced form of intelligence independent from us?

Every day billions of us are emailing, tweeting, Google searching, Pushing “Like” buttons on Facebook, uploading and downloading our desires, fears, deep insights, petty differences and spiritual values through digital screens, coursing through fiber optic cables, under oceans, across continents at 134,300 miles per second, beamed up and down form orbiting satellites and back into our brains.

At the same time, quantum computers and genetic engineering are on the verge and climate change is accelerating in ways no human experts or supercomputers can fully predict.

What is emerging?  Are we headed towards the Next Renaissance or Mass Anxiety?

Most likely, both.

Which serves as a reminder of the key insight from Buddhist Teacher Robert Thurman previously discussed in Essays #5, 6 & 7:

“Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance.”


Wisdom is inherent in Nature’s ability, through self-organizing/Emergence to generate totally new “Wholes” out of the sum of interacting “parts.” And for the first time in evolution here on Earth, self-conscious mammals with unique frontal cortexes and right-hemisphere capabilities for intuitive wisdom and imaginative synaptic leaps, are consciously participating in the next evolutionary shift.

Systems Theorist John Platt offers:

“Anyone who is willing to admit that there have been sudden jumps in evolution or human history, such as the invention of agriculture or the Industrial Revolution, must conclude from this evidence that we are passing through another such jump far more concentrated and more intense than these, and of far greater evolutionary importance.”   

There are good reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic. The Next Renaissance could emerge as well as a Sisyphean nightmare of reactionary fear, materialistic greed and emotional implosion.

Much will depend on what values we, as individuals, and even more importantly, in collaborative groups, decide are most important if we are willing to contemplate:

      NI (Nature’s Intelligence)

            + HI (Human Intelligence) +

                           AI (Computer Intelligence) = ???!!!


As Cyberspace journalist Douglas Rushkoff, whose insights we will be covered in a future Essay, writes:


“The web of inter-connected computer networks provides the ultimate electronic neural extension for the growing mind.  To reckon with this technological frontier of human consciousness means to reevaluate the very nature of information, creativity, property, and human relations.”





Enjoy the following quotes / insights / links



“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”


Scientist & Science Fiction Writer Arthur C. Clark



“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”

Theologian, Philosopher, Mystic Meister Eckhart



“For the first time in human evolution, the individual life is long enough, and the cultural transformation swift enough,  that the individual mind is now a constituent player in the the global transformation of human culture.”

Cultural Historian/Philosopher William Irwin Thompson





Essay #6: Gaia Vision



One of the most brilliant, insightful integral thinkers I ever had the chance to converse with was William Irwin Thompson.  He was gracious enough to be a guest on my radio program for two hours back in 2002.

Bill Thompson was a philosopher, cultural historian and founder of the Lindisfarne Association, a network of scientists, artists and religious scholars who got together to discuss what Bill called “Planetary Culture.”  Listening to Bill or reading his work, one gets the sense he has not only read virtually every important book in the humanities and general sciences, but integrated them into a unique, wholistic vision.

What I remember most about radio our conversation was not the content of what he said, but his style which he himself described as “poetic, philosophical mind-jazz” (clearly a right-hemisphere style of thinking).

For this essay I focus one of his essays, “It’s Already Begun, The Planetary Age is an unacknowledged daily reality.”

Written in 1985, it’s relevant for global shifts going on right now and serves as a good view of Bill’s integral mind.


“We live in a culture that we do not see.  We don’t live in industrial civilization; we live in planetization. For example, we all think we live in a world that’s structured according to industrial nation-states that engage in activities of trade and warfare that are weighed and measured by certain quantitative forms. That’s the conscious structure of the world that we call reality. The unconscious structure of the world is that there are all kinds of forms of dark exchange called pollution – atmospheric things like acid rain and the greenhouse effect and changes in the oceans – and that these are the integrations that are bringing us all together. We are in an implosive situation of planetary integration, but where is the planetary culture expressed?”


The key reference here is to “the unconscious.”  Most academic disciplines are limited to what can be seen and felt consciously.  But it’s been an accepted scientific fact that some 95 percent of our behavior is generated by the unconscious.  When Bill refers to the “quantitative forms” which can be “weighed and measured” as the “conscious structure of the world we call reality,” he is alluding to what we now know as the limitation of the left-hemisphere of our brains which is not comfortable with and often blind to the less predictable, less measurable, but significantly more influential qualities of the unconscious which need to be brought into light.


Emerging Signals

Bill then goes on to make the right-hemisphere insight that phenomena such as greenhouse gases and acid rain can be seen from the depth psychological level as signals rising out of the collective unconscious and forming a more visible planetary vison. Bill’s insights in this essay came when the internet was a not a highly usable tool by the general public, before the world wide web was even created.

He expands on the essence of the emerging “planetary culture:”


“And it’s expressed with those people who are sensitive to the unconscious, who live at the membrane between the culture’s conscious system, called civilization and writing and literacy, and those who face the intuitive dimensions of the unconscious. These are the artists. These are the prophets…. There is also planetary culture in the forms of electronic communication, of the whole grid of satellites that enables us to exist in forms that have nothing to do with the reality of the industrial nation-state.”


Again, we see right-hemisphere qualities being elevated with reference to “intuitive dimensions of the unconscious.”  As discussed in previous essays here, unconscious impulses are much better absorbed and understood by the adaptive, empathic, non-verbal, expanded vision qualities of the right hemisphere (what psychotherapist Allan Schore calls “the essential right-brain process of non-conscious affect regulation”), the ability to integrate emotion and meaning into a larger vision.

It’s also useful to note that Bill met with and was influenced by the communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, whose insights into technology as extensions of the human mind and body are featured in Essays #3&4.

Bill writes,


 “We are now at the stage where there is an unconscious form of shadowed integration, where we are living in a planetary culture, but we are trying to describe it and weigh it and measure it in all the systems of consciousness of industrial values, industrial structures and industrial nation-states. This creates an incredible cognitive dissonance.”


Aha!  Again, we bump into the phrase, “cognitive dissonance.”  When this website first went online, we posted the quote of Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman, our first webinar guest:

“Wisdom is the tolerance of cognitive dissonance.” 

This psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance was again referenced in the previous two essays, relating to Arthur C. Clark’s explanation for HAL’s brain imploding in 2001: A Space Odyssey and relating to the therapeutic and spiritual power of the enduring Yin/Yang symbol.  Cognitive dissonance refers to the psychological pressure felt when holding two or more contradictory thoughts, values or beliefs at the same time.  This pressure will most likely cause us to end the conflict by choosing one thought or value or belief.  But as Robert Thurman suggests, tolerating the “dissonance”, holding the apparently contradictory thoughts in the mind can lead to a greater truth.

Bill Thompson brings up cognitive dissonance in reference to the situation that in 1985 (still true today) most people were viewing the world through the lens of the industrial age whereas a number of intuitive right-hemisphere thinkers were tuning into an emergent global mind-set percolating up from the collective unconscious, a shift  into a new ‘planetary culture.’


“So right now, everything in our content of consciousness is industrial nation-state, traditional forms, the modern world that we have had since 1500. And we keep bumping into things. We bump into the atmosphere. We bump into people. We bump into Indians. We bump into Russians. We bump into Shiites or Palestinians. And we keep wondering, what the hell’s going on? The maps don’t work. Where are we?”


Bill was anticipating the situation we are in now as TV screens, Websites and newspapers send out pictures and commentary on culture-bending issues from Women’s Right and Blacks Live Matter to Immigration Reform and, the shape-shifter of them all, Climate Change.  While these are specific political and social issues on the one hand (left-hemisphere focus), they are also, as integral thinkers like Bill Thompson point out, deep-seated, invisible rumblings from the collective unconscious signaling a seismic shift to a more integrated, digitally networked, planetary culture (right hemisphere).



From Civilization to Planetization

“You can’t fix civilization. Civilization is militarization. So, the first thing you have to have is a transformation of consciousness. You have to move from civilization to planetization and realize the world we are really living in, where we are all mutually involved in one another.”

This “transformation of consciousness” clearly happened in the late 1960’s when horrific images of innocent Vietnamese men, women and children being napalmed were transmitted onto millions of TV screens in living rooms across the country were credited as a pivotal point in changing the public’s view of that war.

And in 2010, a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, trying to sell enough fruit to feed his family, was ordered by police to hand over his cart because he lacked a permit.  Humiliated and despondent, he protested by setting himself on fire in front of a government building.  His act was captured by cellphones, posted on the Internet and quickly set off what is now referred to as the “Arab Spring,” a series of powerful, expanding protests which forced the resignation of political despots and uprisings across the Middle East.


“Once you begin to see what’s really going on in the world, you won’t see the future. Forget about prophecies. We’re just talking about what’s happening now. When you look at the stars, you know you’re seeing the past. But maybe in the soul, when an event happened ‘out there,’ you would know it in your heart even though the light would take time to come to you. So, there are times when you look out at history and read the newspapers, but you don’t really see what’s going on. Then you imagine these fantasies of prophecies about the future far, far away, but all of those prophecies of the future are the actual daily news. Your heart is telling you what’s going on.”


Here is Bill integrating astrophysics, relativity, the human psyche, history, spiritual values and media theory all in one paragraph.  There’s a key point here he makes about the false distinctions we’ve been taught regarding past, present and future.  It’s not the straight line, clearly marked linear graphs in the history textbooks we were tested on in school.  By tuning into what’s actually going on right now (requiring both the conscious, empirical, quantitative level of left-hemisphere focus AND the intuitive, imaginative, unconscious knowing of the right-hemisphere) we actually see the future by paying deep attention to the present.


Gaia Politique

Bill’s essay ends with:

“I think the politics of the 90’s will be the emergence of a Gaia politique. That’s not America; that’s the planet. That’s all of us.”

First, while “industrialization” was still the ruling vision of the 1990’s (it seemed every week there was yet another corporate CEO being celebrated on the cover of Time Magazine for their ability to increase profits), the 1990’s, influenced under the surface and above by the emerging World Wide Web, can now be seen as a significant global rallying cry for environmental sanity. A few examples:

1990:  the UN issues its first report on Climate Change;

1991:  Sweden becomes the first nation to develop a carbon tax;

1997: Julia Butterfly Hill, protesting the logging of historic redwood trees in California, climbs up one of the trees and lives above ground on it for two years.

This last event speaks to how the influence of one person, despite no visible political or financial power platform, but by living on a small wooden platform high on Redwood tree branches, can, with good timing and deep soul-commitment, change the perception of millions of people.

Some highlights of Julia Butterfly Hill‘s  protest which affected global consciousness:

  • To insure the 1500-year-old tree would not be cut down by the Pacific Lumber Company as planned, Julia lived on two 6 by 6-foot platforms above ground;
  • She almost never washed her feet so that the sap from the tree could help her feet stick better to the branches;
  • She used a small propane stove for heat and cooking; a support crew of eight brought in survival supplies which Julia pulled up on ropes;
  • She put with freezing rains, El Nino high winds, and a ten-day siege by Pacific Lumber Company security guards as well as helicopter harassment;
  • She used solar powered cell phones for radio interviews and was named “in-tree” correspondent for a cable TV show;
  • Her protest was resolved when the lumber company agreed to preserve the tree along with other redwoods within a 200-foot radius.

When Julia Butterfly Hill climbed onto that tree, 97 percent of the redwood forest, which once stretched 400 miles, had been cut down for lumber (literally the left-hemisphere not seeing the forest for the trees…or not caring about the forest and just seeing the material profit from the trees).

But one physically frail woman stopped the total destruction and added a powerful spark to the global environmental movement.  She was quoted afterwards:

“When I entered the great majestic cathedral of the redwood forest for the first time, my spirit knew it had found what it was searching for. I dropped to my knees and began to cry, because I was so overwhelmed by the wisdom, energy, and spirituality housed in this holiest of temples.”

Julia’s spiritual act absorbs Bill Thompson’s insight, “You can’t fix civilization. Civilization is militarization. So, the first thing you have to have is a transformation of consciousness. You have to move from civilization to planetization and realize the world we are really living in, where we are all mutually involved in one another.”


Shifting Consciousness

In his essay, “The End of the Age of Religion and the Birth of Symbiotic Consciousness” Bill writes,

“The linearity of left-brain thinking was now to be balanced with a right-brain activation.” 

More specifically, he imagines the potential integration of neuroscience, depth psychology and philosophy:

“The brain may be a three-dimensional volume, but neurons in separate parts of the brain can fire together in the neuronal synchrony of the range of 40 Hertz. The geometry of the synchronies engages as facets of the higher-dimensional geometries of the subtle bodies—where both the Dalai Lama and Rudolf Steiner say memory is stored—so the play of consciousness should not simply be reduced to a section of the brain3. Cultures have in the past called this process of consciousness, imagination or intuition, but whatever one calls it, it is basic to the creative process in art, science and spiritual contemplative practice.” 

In the Mission Statement of this website we cite one of the crucial shifts for the 21st century being “from individual intelligence to collaborative intelligence.”  This “collaborative” synergy is with other human minds AND also with nature’s inherent patterns of flow and integration.

This shift requires more imagination, which means we are less interested in the practical results, more tuned into the emerging, self-organizing oscillations of change expressing the deeper meanings of the planetary shift rumbling under our feet and setting off new synaptic leaps within our brains.



Whether or not Bill is right about the details he offers about the shift from civilization to planetization is secondary to the effect of his right-brain oriented, imaginative integration of cultural history, science, art, philosophy, and spiritual awareness.

“Militarization” and territorial aggression are the dark side of the left hemisphere’s need for certainty and its inability to see past its own substantial, but limited wiring.

This was revealed in a seminal book published in 1966: “The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations” by Robert Ardrey details the mammalian brain’s instinct to defend its boundaries against any perceived threat, real or not. In us humans in led to a left hemisphere tight focus on property ownership and empire expansion legitimized as necessary protection against invaders

Of course, it hasn’t been determined yet whether we humans will in great enough numbers shift our consciousness from the “territorial imperative” to a more right-hemisphere “planetization” instinct Bill Thompson called for and sensed was percolating under the surface of the 24-hour news cycle.

The Key Point:

What makes great right-hemisphere thinkers is not being  highly accurate or proven right,
but able to stimulate the imagination
and creatively expand the blueprint of the next paradigm shift.

In 1978, the New York Times aptly described the big picture integral  mind of William Irwin Thompson in a review titled “Prophet In the Mode:” 

“W1LLIAM IRWIN THOMPSON wants people to think big. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, he would prefer them to worry about all of human history. He would like them to give up their “small” preoccupation with paychecks, marriages or personal mortality in order to speculate about the influence of sunspots on civilization, or to consider a curious analogy he suggests between the life‐cycle of cultures and the initiatory stages of the lumined yogi.”


William Irwin Thompson, one of the most brilliant, spiritually-driven intellects of the modern age, died last December on the winter solstice.  Leave it to Bill to have his spirit depart on such a transformational, liminal time of the year.




The following poem, which connects nature’s majestic redwood trees to some of the great visionary and artistic minds which have passed on is written by Victoria Sullivan, the poet laureate of the radio talk show, The WoodstockRoundtable, which I host on Radio Woodstock, 100.1FM.



Charles Bukowski
William Burroughs
Allen Ginsberg
Albert Camus
Leo Tolstoy
Zelda Fitzgerald
Samuel Beckett
These are my mighty dead
These and so many more:
the trees fall in the forest, and I hear them,
redwoods, ancient redwoods,
echoes of greatness
carried in the wind, like
William Butler Yeats
James Joyce
William Blake
James Baldwin
Langston Hughes—
& others, so many others…
the giants of history
Like Churchill and Lincoln
& Mandela
and Native Americans
Crazy Horse & Sitting Bull, Geronimo,
Stumbling along the trail of tears
The mighty dead, the mighty dead
They sing a song of blood & loss,
The mighty dead.
Their cries & sighs reverberate
like a migraine
like a knife to the chest
The mighty dead march on
in the very air around us,
if we hear their music


if we whistle their song
pluck their strings
blow their horn.
I want the voice of Edith Piaf
of Annie Lenox, Janis Joplin
Willie Nelson
Tom Waits
I want a voice that shivers on the spine.
Give me a voice to sing of the mighty dead.
They visit me at night in smoky dreams,
the air thick, they don’t want our tears.
They want our faith. They say that mighty souls
unborn are yet to come. The mighty dead
have not died in vain. Their laughter
and their pain carry us on to other battlefields,
not for wars this time—so crude a method, no,
now we march into the brightest light:
places we have never been or seen.
The mighty dead wait for us to truly live,
and that will be their mighty legacy.

                                                                            Victoria Sullivan November 2020


WPS Reading-March 14th, 2020 2pm








Essay #5 Yin/Yang & the Hemispheres of the Brain



“A spiral, folding within itself….”

Light and Dark submerging within and emerging from out of each other….

Unconscious and Conscious thoughts, feelings, urges interweaving….

The Yin/Yang symbol of the Tao, one of the most enduring in the perennial philosophy, is a great diving off point for contemplating a shift in emphasis to the right hemisphere of our brains in order to regain our emotional/psychological/spiritual balance here in the 21st century.

Soon after choosing philosophy as my college major, I encountered this symbol for the first time while browsing in a college book store. Over 50 years later, I’m still mesmerized by both its simplicity and complexity all at once.

On the “explicate” level, it’s relatively simple:  black and white sections of a circle divided evenly by a spiral, a white dot within the black, a black dot within the white.

But the deeper “implicit” levels are what stopped me in my tracks (although I had no reason why)  and are the powerful magnetic pull that has made it one of the most enduring symbols in human evolution.

As brought up in previous essays, the left hemisphere of our brains is skilled at breaking things down into smaller parts and analyzing how they are put together (explicit).  The right hemisphere is wired to get a bigger picture or deeper “implicit” meaning which often can’t be best explained in words, but understood at an intuitively felt level.

A common phrase used to define what the yin/yang symbol represents is “Unity of opposites.”  On the explicate level, the black and white sections can be perceived as two opposing forces.  On the implicate level, according to many Taoist accounts, the opposing forces are generated from an underlying, unseen unity/harmony.

So, at the explicate level, yin/yang can reflect a constant pattern of conflict, opposition and competition. From the perspective of the right hemisphere, as taught through the millennia by more intuitive philosophers and spiritual sages, the spiral within the circle reflects a continuous flow between the black and the white which co-exist in an underlying harmony.

Diving into the Spiraling Wave

As with many explorations of ancient Asian wisdom, I turn to one of the most gifted teachers at evoking this wisdom and applying it to our modern age:  Alan Watts.

He once stated:

“The yin/yang symbol is a spiral folding within itself.”


With this perspective, let’s dive in.

Often a good place to start when exercising right hemisphere modes of perception is a teaching tale.  Here is one of the most famous Taoist stories, as written in Alan Watts’ book Tao:  The Watercourse Way:


“There was a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, “May be.”

The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, “May be.”

And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg.

Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, “May be.”

The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came in to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, “May be.”  


You can hear Alan Watts talking about yin/yang here.


He comments on the fact that the symbol contains a white dot in the black pattern and a black dot in the white pattern:

“Obviously black and white are as different as different can be…but strangely black is white in a strange sense. And white is black…because black implies white and white implies black. All positive implies negative and negative implies positive. Because you can’t have the one without the other. To put this into clear words we can say explicatively, black and white are different. But implicitly…they are one. So outwardly, the positive and negative of life are very different.  Life is different from death and good is different from evil. But esoterically, secretively, they are one.”

“Thus, rather than seeing nature as a conquest between opposing forces, the cold vs the heat, the light vs the dark, the day vs the night, man vs woman, the principle of the Yin-Yang is that of mutually-arising. That is to say, to adopt an organic view of nature and appreciate the underlying unity behind the apparent duality.

To demonstrate cooperation and harmony in all the various phenomena of nature.”


Nature’s Expression of Yin/Yang

Contemplating down to an individual atom, the building block of nature, we find the unity underlying the apparent opposition: Each atom contains a proton with a positive charge and electrons with negative charge.

At its core, nature generates symmetry through opposites attracting and like repelling.

In the plant world, we easily get entranced by the beauty of the flowers and the trunk, branches and leaves of a tree reaching up towards the sunlight. But that is only half the story.













As beautiful as these photos are, they leave out ½ of the whole picture…As if being captivated by the white section of the yin/yang symbol, being blind to the dark section.

The missing part?  The roots pushing deep into the dark muck of the earth for sustenance, without which the trees we see in the above photographs couldn’t exist, a vivid example of the “explicit” (left hemisphere) being overemphasized to such a degree that the “implicit” roots of life are forgotten.

And science is now telling us that at the “root” level, trees communicate with each in life-enhancing ways. As described in the article published by Smithsonian Magazine, “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?” based on observations by German forester Peter Wohlleben,

“A revolution has been taking place in the scientific understanding of trees, and Wohlleben is the first writer to convey its amazements to a general audience. The latest scientific studies, conducted at well-respected universities in Germany and around the world, confirm what he has long suspected from close observation in this forest: Trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated—and even intelligent—than we thought…”

The article goes on to confirm a significant understanding of evolution:

“Since Darwin, we have generally thought of trees as striving, disconnected loners, competing for water, nutrients and sunlight, with the winners shading out the losers and sucking them dry. The timber industry in particular sees forests as wood-producing systems and battlegrounds for survival of the fittest.

There is now a substantial body of scientific evidence that refutes that idea. It shows instead that trees of the same species are communal…These soaring columns of living wood draw the eye upward to their outspreading crowns, but the real action is taking place underground, just a few inches below our feet.

“Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web,’ says Wohlleben.”


The “wood-wide web” clearly includes both underground at the root level as well above ground.

At the same time evidence such as the “wood-wide web,” as detailed in the Smithsonian Magazine article, reveals nature is much more collaborative than competitive, culturally we are still stuck in the constrained paradigm that evolution is based on a ‘survival of the fittest’ based on material gains and competition. The yin/yang symbol reflects the need for collaborative harmony, not getting stuck in the explicate at the cost of missing the implicate.


Wave Theory




At the deep, implicit level of what many ancient Asian sages were tuned into, Yin and Yang, dark and light, can’t be well understood taken separately.  As Alan Watts pointed out, the spiral which visually separates them in the symbol is “folding in on itself.”  So, if we imagine the symbol in motion, the black and white sections would be submerging into and emerging out of each other, understandable only as a ‘mutual whole.’

There is another powerful example we’ve all shared that can tune into a deeper understanding of this underlying ‘mutual whole’………. Watching waves rise and fall as they approach the shoreline.

On the visual, explicit level, we can distinguish one wave from another as they rise out of the surface.  Each wave is clearly separate from the others.  But are they?

It’s virtually impossible to accurately measure where an individual wave begins and ends. For at the moment of the measurement, the wave has shifted its position from the ocean out of which it emerges.  And while at the explicit level, we can see general dimensions as the wave rises and falls, did the visual wave ever fully separate itself from the ocean as a whole?

It can’t.  For beneath the surface of the water each wave is being shaped and formed by the underlying tidal forces not just locally, but throughout the entire undersea tidal dynamics of the ocean at large.

So, at the same time a surfer can choose to ride one particular wave over another and we can distinguish each wave from others, in reality each wave is intricately woven into the expansive push/pull currents of the entire ocean.

The importance of understanding the deeper dynamic of wave/ocean is noted by Alan Watts:

“This (the yin/yang symbol) implies that the art of life is more like navigation than warfare, for what is important is to understand the winds, the tides, the currents, the seasons, and the principles of growth and decay, so that one’s actions may use them and not fight them.

At the very roots of ancient Chinese thinking and feeling there lies the principle of polarity, which is not to be confused with the ideas of opposition or conflict. In the metaphors of other cultures, light is at war with darkness, life with death, good with evil, and the positive with the negative, and thus an idealism to cultivate the former and be rid of the latter flourishes throughout much of the world.”




Riding the Quantum Wave

As previously mentioned, the ancient yin/yang symbol is one of the keystones of the perennial philosophy, those transcendent insights that continue to spark the continuing search for deep, edifying patterns of existence.  While primarily an insight in philosophy and spiritual teachings, the yin/yang symbol has influenced science as well.

Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist whose institute in Copenhagen was the main center for development of quantum physics, was offered a Danish knighthood in 1947. One of the perks was the opportunity to construct a personal coat of arms.  Bohr chose as its central image:  The yin/yang symbol.

This is quite interesting to our topic since it was Bohr who created the most enduring philosophical interpretation of the mysterious contradictions inherent in quantum physics.  Despite the fact that quantum physics is the most successful scientific theory ever (responsible for the current computer driven digital age), at its core, confirmed by multiple experiments, is the bizarre mystery that at the subatomic level an entity such as a photon (which makes up light) or an electron (which makes up electricity)  can be either a particle or a wave, depending on how the experiment is set up.

This makes no logical sense.  A particle has finite, discernible boundaries–a wave is diffused and has no clear boundaries.  How could anything be neither definitively one or the other, but potentially either one?

As physicist David Harrison describes the mystery of Wave/particle duality and Bohr’s philosophical vision called “complementarity:” 

“We can think of an electron as a wave or we can think of an electron as a particle, but we cannot think of it as both at once. But in some sense the electron is both at once. Being able to think of these two viewpoints at once is in some sense being able to understand Quantum Mechanics.”

To think of “two viewpoints at once” connects beautifully to Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman’s statement, cited previously on this website:

“Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance.”  

In other words, by holding the opposing viewpoints of Wave/particle duality, or for that matter, the dark and light characteristics of yin/yang in the mind, rather than choosing or defaulting to one or the another, we get a fuller sense of how life operates.

No wonder one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, Niels Bohr, chose the yin/yang symbol for his coat of arms honor. He was adopting the symbols inherent call:  To understand that what appear to be opposing forces (Wave/particle duality) are, at the deeper level of reality, reflections of an unseen, unified flow.

Note:  During the development of quantum physics, its most brilliant creators, Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Dirac, Planck, et al, devoted energetic conversation to the mysterious, esoteric philosophical revelations of the quantum world as well as the practical, observable, provable results.  But as is all too common in the Western mind by the 1950’s, the next generation of quantum physicists consciously discarded philosophizing about the deeper meaning of quantum reality (right-hemisphere) to focus entirely on achieving practical advances in quantum technology (left-hemisphere).  This left-hemisphere mind-set to forget about deep meaning and focus on practical results was captured in a quote attributed to physicist David Mermin, which became the operating mantra:

“Shut Up and Calculate!”

(The right-hemisphere might counter with ‘Open Up and Contemplate.’)

While admiring and enjoying the benefits of this left-hemisphere focus (personal computers, laser medical devices, smartphones), we can at the same time point to the crucial human need for deeper meaning and existential insight. (Fortunately, this has always re-surfaced on occasion, examples being Fritz Capra’s brilliant integration of quantum physics and ancient Asian mysticism, “The Tao of Physics” , Quantum physicist David Bohm, Einstein’s protégé, whose contemplation of underlying  unity inspired his 1980  book “Wholeness and the Implicate Order” and, in the 21st century, the Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek who wrote:

My 10th key to reality, which emerges from but in some ways transcends science, turned out to be ‘Complementarity is Mind-Expanding.’ Complementarity is an attitude toward life that I’ve found eye-opening and extremely helpful. It has, literally, changed my mind. Through it, I’ve become larger: more open to imagination, and more tolerant.”




Brain Patterns & Flow

We’ve all been in that wonderful, great-feeling, highly productive brain state of “flow,” where linear time seems to disappear and we move effortlessly towards a successful goal.  It’s been commented on by artists, athletes, writers, scientists, musicians and business leaders.

The ancient “spiraling within itself” image of yin and yang clearly reflect a flow inherent in the world and now modern science can explain some of flow’s origins in our brains.

An article on Peak Performance published in TIME Magazine stated,

“Over the past decade, scientists have made enormous progress on flow. Advancements in brain imaging technologies have allowed us to apply serious metrics where once was only subjective experience…

The state emerges from a radical alteration in normal brain function. In flow, as attention heightens, the slower and energy-expensive extrinsic system (conscious processing) is swapped out for the far faster and more efficient processing of the subconscious, intrinsic system.”

The quoted material above is packed with interesting allusions to right-hemisphere wiring:


  • On the one hand, it points to “being in flow” as requiring a shift from “extrinsic system” qualities more associated with left-hemisphere thinking towards the “processing of the subconscious, intrinsic system,” more associated with right-hemisphere thinking.


  • When we are ‘in the flow state’ our brain doesn’t slow down to break down and analyze different strategies (left-hemisphere characteristic). As the article states, when we are “in flow, the result is liberation [from second guessing]. We act without hesitation. Creativity becomes more free-flowing, risk taking becomes less frightening, and the combination lets us flow at a far faster clip” (right-hemisphere characteristics).


The article then describes the shift in brain wave states which induce this experience:

“In flow, we shift from the fast-moving beta wave of waking consciousness down to the far slower borderline between alpha and theta. Alpha is day-dreaming mode—when we slip from idea to idea without much internal resistance. Theta, meanwhile, only shows up during REM or just before we fall asleep, in that hypnogogic gap where ideas combine in truly radical ways.”

The “day dreaming” alpha wave mode and even deeper theta wave mode are much more effectively processed by the right hemisphere’s openness to totally novel, boundary-shaking messages from the subconscious than the left hemisphere’s predilection for more objective, familiar language.

(Note: As for the even deeper theta brain wave state, I address this in the next Essay:  The Creative Power of Dreams)




As Dr. Iain McGilchrist writes in “The Master and his Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World,”

the book which is a major influence on this Right Brain Network website:

So, the left hemisphere needs certainty and needs to be right. The right hemisphere makes it possible to hold several ambiguous possibilities in suspension together without premature closure on one outcome.” 

This insight is connected on a deep level to Robert Thurman’s, previously mentioned:

“Wisdom is the tolerance of cognitive dissonance.”


Note: Robert Thurman and Iain McGilchrist were the first two guests on our webinar series “What Are We Thinking?  A Trip into the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain.”






As we encounter the challenge of the sped up, digitalized, globalized, network-connected 21st century, slowing down our brain waves from the hyperactive beta state to the more reflective, intuitive, open-minded right-hemisphere feels like a much-needed shift.

And if we see the yin/yang symbol as a metaphor for our brain, it can be imagined as pointing to the need for whole-brain thinking, with the two hemispheres working more in concert.  Given the well-researched, well thought-out premise of Iain McGilchrist’s “The Master and his Emissary:  “The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World:” Western culture has been dominated for centuries by the overly self-assured, technologically oriented left hemisphere, then to achieve whole brain thinking requires a re-balancing shift to a more right hemisphere perception of the deep, powerful patterns of change occurring under the surface of the anxiety-producing 24-hour news cycle.

The yin/yang symbol, apparent oppositions folding in and out of one another, reflecting an implicit Flow & Unity underneath, is much more capable of being felt and understood in the right-hemisphere of our brains’ ability to tune into the alpha and theta brain wave frequencies, to intuit the Whole and not just the parts, to understand collaboration has a greater presence in nature than does competition, to see beyond materialism to the deeper, more pervasive non-material pattern of existence.



Enjoy exploring this week’s quotes and links:


“At heart, science is the quest for awesome – the literal awe that you feel when you understand something profound for the first time. It’s a feeling we are all born with, although it often gets lost as we grow up and more mundane concerns take over our lives.”

Sean Carroll,  Theoretical Physicist



“The materialistic consciousness of our culture … is the root cause of the global crisis; it is not our business ethics, our politics or even our personal lifestyles. These are symptoms of a deeper underlying problem. Our whole civilization is unsustainable. And the reason that it is unsustainable is that our value system, the consciousness with which we approach the world, is an unsustainable mode of consciousness.”

 Peter Russell, author, “The Global Brain”


“Dialogue is a space where we may see the assumptions which lay beneath the surface of our thoughts, assumptions which drive us, assumptions around which we build organizations, create economies, form nations and religions. These assumptions become habitual, mental habits that drive us, confuse us and prevent our responding intelligently to the challenges we face every day. “


David Bohm, Quantum Physicist/Philosopher






Essay #4: Where is Evolution Pointing its Finger?


In the mission statement for this website I write: 

“Here in the 21st century, with exponentially expanding computer intelligence and worldwide digital connection as the driving forces, evolution is accelerating at a speed never before experienced in human history…

 We have left the world of logical, linear, one step at a time, sequential thought,

                    We have entered the age of the quantum leap.”


Two scenes from one of the greatest films to portray a quantum leap in consciousness set the stage for today’s essay. 

2001: A Space Odyssey was purposely designed to provoke, disorient and challenge.  In this essay let’s look  at the film as  powerful metaphor for the required  shift in emphasis from the left hemisphere of the viewer’s brain to the right hemisphere.

As previously discussed, our brains are divided into a left and right hemisphere.  They are separated by a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum through which the two hemispheres can communicate with each other.  The key to understanding their relationship, as masterfully explicated in Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Master and His Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, they each see the world from very different perspectives

The left hemisphere sees a material world which can be understood best by breaking things down into parts and figuring out how they fit together.  Very useful for creating advanced technology and organizing large systems.  But its weakness is a constant search for certainty–it’s  not comfortable with complex questions which require a tolerance for ambiguity and novelty.  It also has a tendency to get stuck within its own boundary.

The right hemisphere, which is physically larger and has more synaptic connections, seeks a “bigger picture” of the world and our place in it.  It’s capable of making intuitive, unpredictable leaps into new ways of perceiving and understanding.

As Iain McGilchrist writes,

“While making it clear that both the left and right hemisphere’s ways of looking at the world are important, “…I suggest that it is as if the left hemisphere, which creates a sort-of self-reflexive virtual world, has blocked off the available exits, the ways out of the hall of mirrors, into a reality which the right hemisphere could enable us to understand.”  This has resulted the modern society, both physically, emotionally and spiritually becoming “increasingly mechanistic, fragmented decontextualized world, marked by unwarranted optimism mixed with paranoia and a feeling of emptiness….reflecting, I believe, the unopposed action of a dysfunctional left hemisphere.”


2001:  A Space Odyssey can be seen as  a virtual celebration of the imaginative leap capabilities of the right hemisphere. Here is director/co-author Stanley Kubrick’s own description of the film in an interview with Eric Norden for Playboy Magazine:

“2001 is a nonverbal experience; out of two hours and 19 minutes of film, there are only a little less than 40 minutes of dialog. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content. To convolute [Marshall] McLuhan, in 2001 the message is the medium. I intended the film to be an intensely subjective experience that reaches the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does; to “explain” a Beethoven symphony would be to emasculate it by erecting an artificial barrier between conception and appreciation. You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film — and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level.”

Note words and phrases Kubrick uses such as:

  • “nonverbal” (psychologists have shown that most communication between and among us is at the nonverbal, subconscious level, a region the “implicit” right hemisphere is more comfortable in than the “explicit” left which depends much more on written and spoken verbal language;
  • “free to speculate,” again a nod to the “implicit” where the right hemisphere subjectively fills in the gaps rather than the left hemisphere’s preference for exactness and objective clarity;



The Jump Cut / Synaptic Leap

One of the most unexpected, brilliant “jump-cut” edits in movie history is the rotating bone flung into the air by one of the prehistoric apes morphing into a futuristic space shuttle heading towards the moon.

The bone reflects the leap in intelligence of the leader of one of the ape groups after he and other group members flail nervously around the strange monolith (which helps induce the synaptic jump in the lead ape’s brain).  This ape discovers for the first time that the bone can be both a useful tool for digging and a powerful weapon for beating off other ape groups competing for territory around a life-supporting source of water.

The jump-cut edit to the modern space shuttle, from one point of view (the left hemisphere) is an exponential leap forward…who can deny the leap in tool sophistication between a primitive bone and a space shuttle to the moon?  From a technological perspective, yes.  But is it an equally large leap in consciousness?

We get the answer when we witness the lead American scientist, Dr. Heywood Floyd, under military orders, refusing to reveal to Russian scientific colleagues he has previously worked with any information about the discovery of another monolith found by American scientists doing research on the moon.  Rather than share the information in a collaborative effort, the American response is to keep the discovery secret, cutting off all communication from American scientists on the moon.  Floyd’s body language and verbal language  is incredibly stilted, emotionally void, tight-lipped, protective.

At the conference on the moon with fellow scientists, Floyd makes clear the need for absolute secrecy: If word got out that an artifact had been found buried by an alien intelligence, it was assumed people on earth would freak out.  How different is it from the primitive ape’s use of the bone to prevent other groups from using the water hole on the African savanna different from lead scientist Floyd preventing any other nation, or for that matter, the inhabitants of earth, from any information about the monolith?  Both moves come from the part of the brain which is dominated by a strict territorial imperative.  With the prehistoric apes, it was the need to dominate the water hole against any outside group–with the human scientists on the moon, it was the need to conform to  strict, bureaucratic protection of the existence of a higher intelligence.

So, one conclusion taken from this is  that while we homo sapiens have figured out how to make huge advances  in the usefulness of tools/technology, a primary attribute of the left hemisphere of the brain, there is not nearly the leap in consciousness that understands the advantages of collaboration and openness to the new and unpredictable–that which requires a leap in understanding,  attributes more conducive to the right hemisphere.


 Unplugging HAL

One of the most crucial, intriguing questions about the film has been “What made HAL go crazy?”  After making a computational error, the two astronauts are convinced the super computer, responsible for all the complex mechanisms of the space craft,  needs to be shut down. HAL, unknown to the two astronauts Bowman and Poole who made sure the computer couldn’t hear their plan to shut him down, can, however read their lips.  Out of self-protection (and to his computer brain, out of his instructions to guide the spacecraft to its intended destination, it murders one and refuses to let the other, Bowman, re-enter the spacecraft.

What caused HAL to break down and become a murderer? According to Kubrick, in an interview with author, journalist Joseph Gelmis:  “In the specific case of HAL, he had an acute emotional crisis because he could not accept evidence of his own fallibility.”


But I prefer the explanation given by Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the screenplay with Kubrick, then gave his explanation in his sequel novel 2010:  The Year We Make Contact, (also made into a movie.)  Clarke, who had a background as an engineer/science writer as well as science fiction novelist, explains in the novel sequel that HAL broke down due an inability to resolve two conflicting algorithms inputted by orders of the humans in charge of the Jupiter mission. On the one hand, HAL was instructed to give astronauts Bowman and Poole accurate information to ensure the spaceship gets to Jupiter.  At the same time, those in charge of the mission feared that if the astronauts knew they were heading towards an alien intelligence, they’d freak out and not be willing to complete the mission.  So, HAL, after being instructed to give Bowman and Poole accurate information, was given the contradictory instruction to lie to them about the true purpose of the mission.

This breakdown in HAL’s brain when trying to hold two opposing algorithmic instructions  is analogous to the human phenomenon we’ve all experienced in our brains:  cognitive dissonance. This is the psychological pressure felt when holding two or more contradictory thoughts, values or beliefs at the same time.  Doing this while accessing the right hemisphere of the human brain’s capacity to use ambiguity and volatility to reach a higher level of understanding can actually lead to a more enlightened vision as will be noted towards the end of this essay.  And as awesome as the leap in AI has been since the turn of the new century,  computers can still not match the attributes of the human  right brain hemisphere.

So, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to Arthur C. Clarke, HAL pretends to make a potentially disastrous mistake regarding one of the spaceship’s mechanisms so that when the two astronauts left the spaceship to fix the exterior unit, HAL could cause their deaths and would no longer have to maintain the lie.  Bottom line:  It was the human error of inputting two contradictory instructions that fractured HAL’s computer brain.                            




A Metaphorical View

On the literal plot line level, HAL needed to be turned off since he had become a murderer.  But we can also consider the unplugging of HAL’s brain as reflecting astronaut Bowman’s need to cross over the Corpus callosum of his brain from predominantly left hemisphere (organized, focused, analytical, more predictable) to his right hemisphere (expansive, curious, more open to totally novel perceptions and sensations).

The left hemisphere of Bowman’s (or any human’s) brain could not tolerate Bowman’s mind-altering, totally mind-altering trip through the Star Gate set up by the monolith, which appears orbiting Jupiter right before the bizarre trip begins.

But before looking at Bowman entering the Star Gate:

It’s important to acknowledge the crucial value of the left-hemisphere in the big picture view of the Jupiter mission.  Without the ordered, sequential, organized mind-set of the two astronauts working with HAL, the exponentially superior brain at maintaining the mechanical quality of the spaceship,  Bowman would never have reached the Star Gate.

At the same time, without moving from the left hemisphere mode to right hemisphere (the Star Gate seen as a metaphor for the Corpus callosum, Bowman’s brain would have likely shut down, unable to deal with the disorienting, massive  evolutionary leap in consciousness his mind  experiences (a supersized version of cognitive dissonance).



Entering the STAR GATE        

At one metaphoric level, the unplugging of the computer/left hemisphere and the crossing over to the right hemisphere Stargate begins an accelerated evolutionary leap towards a newborn star child, a re-birth of Bowman (in human history a rebirth is represented by a Renaissance, “from Old French renaissance, literally “rebirth,” usually in a spiritual sense.”

When asked to talk about the final scenes, Kubrick responded, “No, I don’t mind discussing it, on the lowest level, that is, straightforward explanation of the plot:”


“When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or Star Gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination.”


We are now in the region of “dreams” and “imagination,” the province of the right hemisphere (Neurologically in our brains, Dr. Iain McGilchrist writes “…during REM sleep and dreaming there is greatly increased blood flow in the right hemisphere…EEG coherence data also point to the predominance of the right hemisphere in dreaming.”

Kubrick continues explaining the story line of the final Star Gate scenes:

In a timeless state, his (Bowman’s) life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child…and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny.”

It is the premise of this website and the webinar associated with it that we are on the precipice of an evolutionary leap…a leap induced by exponentially expanding computer intelligence, the fast approaching scientific breakthroughs in genetic engineering and brain implants along with the potential for unprecedented breakthroughs in philosophical wisdom and psychological expansion through the collaborative network of the World Wide Web.

2001: A Space Odyssey, despite being produced over 50 years ago, remains one of the most powerful symbolic experiences of this potential for ‘evolutionary leap’ premise and, central to our theme here, remains one of the most effective symbolic celebrations of the crossing of the corpus callosum from the predominantly technical, specialized, utilitarian, closely focused left hemisphere to the more big-picture, imaginative, empathic, paradigm-breakthrough qualities of the right hemisphere.





We are the first beings on the evolutionary path here on planet Earth with the ability to consciously direct our own evolutionary path.

So, in what direction are we being pointed? The insight from one of the most insightful historians on the planet right now, Yuval Noah Havarti, which we highlight on the home page of this website is a deep insight into the speed of change generated by expanded computer intelligence percolating through all aspects of our lives:


“In long run, people will have to continually reinvent themselves.”


What if we combine that insight with one from the mind of Marshall McLuhan, the provocative media theorist we quote often on this website?

        “We Shape Our Tools,

                And Thereafter Our Tools Shape Us”


2001:  A Space Odyssey points to both the crucial importance of computer intelligence and its ultimate failure without the overriding influence of the right hemisphere of the human brain.

It is quite a challenge to feel what astronaut Bowman must have been going through in his mind after entering the Star Gate and experiencing those strange, unprecedented transitions leading to his rising from his death bed, pointing at the monolith which appears close by.

In nature, here on planet Earth Bowman’s leap is perhaps best reflected in the astounding molecular transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.  In human terms, spiritual teachers throughout the flow of the Perennial Philosophy, speak to the necessary inner transformation within the psyche in order to reach a deeper perception of reality.

Reflecting on the dry, impersonal, tight-lipped, overly defensive scientists and engineers who populate 2001:  A Space Odyssey and the over-dependence of the left hemisphere limited world view which has brought our civilization to the precipice of systematic collapse (climate change) , I again point to an insight from Iain McGilchrist:


“When we remember that it is the right hemisphere that succeeds in bringing us in touch with whatever is new by an attitude of receptive openness to what is—by contrast with the left hemisphere’s view that it makes new thing actively, by willfully putting them together bit by bit—it seems that here, too, is evidence, if any further were needed, that the right hemisphere is more true to the nature of things.” 


The left hemisphere of the human brain is great at inventing new tools and technology; the right hemisphere more suited for re-inventing our perception of the world, particularly relevant when the “nature of things” feels like they are shifting dramatically under our feet.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a visually beautiful cinematic trip leading to the “re-birth” (Renaissance)   guided by an alien intelligence.

The question: Here on planet Earth in the year 2021, is the “nature of things,”  the pull of evolution, pointing us on a trip towards a synaptic leap within the right hemisphere of our brains, to “re-invent” the way we perceive ourselves and our place in the world?



Essay #3: What’s the Story?


Based on my research, the three most effective ways the human brain learns are:

        Trial & Error                 

                    Games (PLAY)


Of these three, other mammals share with us the first two. Trial & Error? The first time we as infants curiously touch a hot stove is probably the last time.

Scientists studying songbirds noted the young birds learned more from trial & error than by just observation. The advantages animals have over us is they are free to learn from trial and error whereas our school system metes out bad grades for mistakes, pressuring students to avoid them.

“By seeking and blundering we learn.”

            ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


One of the most cheerful, witty and smart encouragements for students to learn from blunders came in a letter written by the great novelist/satirist Kurt Vonnegut.  In 2006, a teacher at Xavier High School in Manhattan, a Ms. Lockwood, challenged her students to write a letter to their favorite author and invite him or her to visit the class.  Five of the students chose Kurt Vonnegut.  He was the only author to respond.

Here is his letter:

“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs. Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances anymore because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six-line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut”

 What a brilliant tribute to the right hemisphere of our brains.


Human Brain Vs. Computer Brain:  What Can We Learn?







After trial & error, the second of the most effective ways our brains learn comes from playing games, which we also share with other mammals. Watching puppies, squirrels and tiger cubs playing is one of the most enjoyable scenes we experience, but there are deep hunting and life-saving learning patterns being developed at the core of play.

For us humans, as the 20th century was shifting towards the 21st, expanding computer intelligence upped the ante as to what we can learn from playing games with the new form of intelligence we created:  Computer intelligence (AI).

This was made dramatically clear in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat the reigning human world chess champion, Gary Kasparov.  It shocked the chess world.  Kasparov was considered the greatest human chess player of all time.  He had easily defeated Deep Blue just a few years before. But Deep Blue, with help from its human programmers, learned at exponential speed. As it engaged in the rematch with Kasparov, Gary was able to calculate 12-14 moves ahead under pressure, a great feat for a human brain.  Across the chess board, according to information on the IBM web site, “Deep blue could explore up to 200 million possible chess positions per second.”  And pick out the one most effective.

But it was more than just sheer, massive calculations that shocked Kasparov to his core.  As he later said in an interview for Time Magazine,

I could feel — I could smell — a new kind of intelligence across the table.”  


To try and soften the wound to human egos, a number of game enthusiasts back in 1997 rationalized that while chess is primarily a game of speedy calculations in a well-defined territory with well-defined potential moves, a computer would never beat the best humans at GO, the Asian game much more complex than chess which requires not just memory and speed calculations, but more mysterious qualities such as the subjective inner voice of “intuition” which a purely calculating machine could never match.

Those critics were proven wrong.

In March, 2016, in front of over two million keenly interested online spectators from around the world, the computer AlphaGo developed by Deep Mind, a British subsidiary of Google, easily defeated 8-time world GO champion Lee Sedol.

This freaked out the game world even more than Kasparov’s defeat.  Here’s an excerpt from the report of the outcome on the New Scientist web site at the time:

“As the game reached its conclusion, the reality of Lee’s defeat set in slowly across the venue, prompting quiet gasps of shock. This was stark contrast to Tuesday, when some Korean journalists had openly cheered Lee at a press conference.

The news, that artificial intelligence has defeated humanity’s best Go player, has sent shock waves through the international Go community. ‘I felt emotional and dizzy, and stepped outside for a minute,’ said Ben Lockhart, one of the top US amateur players, watching on in the press room.” 

Another commentator saw the defeat as even more apocalyptic:

 “It was hard not to feel sympathy with Lee as I watched this opening defeat. He carries the hopes of a nation – not to mention a species – on his shoulders.” 

At one point early on in the first match, AlphaGo made a surprising move, one not seen before in the long history of recording top level Go games.  Lee Sedol, confused and a bit shaken by the unanticipated move, took one of the allowed breaks and left the room.

One of the media commentators, a world-class GO player himself, reporting the match to the millions watching, stated, “I don’t really know if it’s a good move or a bad move.”

His fellow commentator announced, “I thought it was a mistake.”

Another world-class player watching the match described the computer’s move with a word we reserve for subjective, emotional human qualities, not rational, calculating ones.  He described the computer’s move as “Beautiful.  So beautiful.”

Hours later, Lee Sedol, admitting he was “shocked,” resigned.

Cad Metz, reporting the match for Wired Magazine, responded to that “beautiful” move:

“It was the moment AlphaGo proved it understands, or at least appears to mimic understanding in a way that is indistinguishable from the real thing. From where Lee sat, AlphaGo displayed what Go players might describe as intuition, the ability to play a beautiful game not just like a person but in a way no person could.”



An Even Bigger SURPRISE

As “shocking” as a computer able to beat a human at a game requiring what are considered subjective, inner mind skills , it could still be rationalized somewhat by the fact that AlphaGo had the advantage of 30 million moves by top level human GO players inputted into its memory and which it could access in seconds at any time.

But then some very smart folks at Google came up with a brainstorm—what if, instead of inputting any human games into a computer, it simply gave the computer the rules of a game and then have it LEARN only by playing itself millions of times?  (In other words, learn by trial & error, given the fancier term “reinforcement learning,” without any knowledge of how the most skillful humans in history played the game).

By 2017, computers were running at such fast speeds that one named AlphaZero (zero knowledge of how the best humans played the games) learned chess, GO and another complex Asian game, Shogi.

Learning chess, it only took AlphaZero a few hours to play against itself millions of times and analyze the most successful strategies. That was the sum total of its learning curve. A match was set up between Alpha Zero and the strongest chess computer program in the world at the time called Stockfish.

Here is an enjoyable description of the two computer chess opponents from an article in Popular Mechanics:

“On one side was Stockfish 8. This world-champion program approaches chess like dynamite handles a boulder—with sheer force, churning through 60 million potential moves per second. Of these millions of moves, Stockfish picks what it sees as the very best one—with “best” defined by a complex, hand-tuned algorithm co-designed by computer scientists and chess grandmasters. That algorithm values a delicate balance of factors like pawn positions and the safety of its king.

On the other side was a new program called AlphaZero (the “zero” meaning no human knowledge in the loop), a chess engine in some ways very much weaker than Stockfish—powering through just 1/100th as many moves per second as its opponent. But AlphaZero is an entirely different machine. Instead of deducing the “best” moves with an algorithm designed by outside experts, it learns strategy by itself–Its programmers merely tuned it with the basic rules of chess and allowed it to play several million games against itself. As it learned, AlphaZero gradually pieced together its own strategy.” 

Note those portentous words about this form of computer learning: “gradually pieced together its own strategy.” Once the rules of the game were inputted and instructions given to engage in a massive trial & error learning process, humans were being taken out of the learning loop

The result? As reported by Popular Mechanics:

“The head-to-head battle was astonishing. In 100 games, AlphaZero never lost. The AI engine won the match (winning 28 games and drawing the rest) with dazzling sacrifices, risky moves, and a beautiful style that was completely new to the world of computer chess.”

(Note:  At the highest level of human chess, most games are drawn, neither player winning.  To win 28 out of 100 and lose none against the most successful computer chess engine in the world at the time was astonishing.)

So, what does this brief history of computer intelligence playing games have to do with the right hemisphere of the human brain and helping to bring about the Next Renaissance?

4 Takeaways 

  • AlphaGo’s remarkable achievement is confirmation of one of media theorist Marshall McLuhan’ key aphorisms: “The medium is the message.” By playing against itself and learning what moves best achieved the goal of the game, then soundly defeating the chess program that in seconds could access and compare a data base of 60 million human chess moves by the greatest human players of all time, Alpha Zero showed that the underlying “process” or “medium” of learning  is more powerful than analyzing the best content available. (for deeper look into this oracular aphorism and some of its potential meanings for us  here in the 21s century Digital Age).


  • The chess journalist writing for Popular Mechanics, William Herkewitz, analyzing the novel, brilliant strategy of AlphaZero, describes it: “Again and again, this magician-like chess engine makes early sacrifices like these as part of an extremely long-term strategy whose benefit won’t become clear for dozens of moves into the future.”  This strategy is similar philosophically to some of the greatest human psychological and spiritual teachers with regards to “sacrifice” and the “bigger picture” of what is most beneficial in the long run.


  • Virtually all media observers viewed the stunning defeat of Gary Kasparov by Deep Blue in 1997 as a blow to the human ego and limited their view of games to that of a “zero-sum game,” a game in which in order for one person or team to win, the other person or team has to lose. But Kasparov, after initially displaying his bruised ego by angrily accusing IBM of cheating, came to a “Big Picture” perception some twenty years later, writing in the Wall Street Journal,“It is no secret that I hate losing, and I did not take it well. But losing to a computer wasn’t as harsh a blow to me as many at the time thought it was for humanity as a whole. The cover of Newsweek called the match “The Brain’s Last Stand.” Those six games in 1997 gave a dark cast to the narrative of “man versus machine” in the digital age…Twenty years later, after learning much more about the subject, I am convinced that we must stop seeing intelligent machines as our rivals.”


  • As confirmation of Kasparov’s “big picture” insight, the intelligence built into Deep Blue to defeat him is now being used to help doctors solve difficult and puzzling cancer cases. As doctors work with computers to solve complex cases, the human ego had to go through more gyrations.  As one male doctor admitted his initial reactions to Deep Blue’s diagnostic skills, ‘Oh my God, why didn’t I think of that?’ We don’t like to admit it.” How Watson is Transforming Health Care


The Metaphorical Learning Tool:  Stories                                              


If someone uses the phrase “sour grapes” or “slow and steady wins the race,” we immediately tap into the meaning behind those phrases which emerge from two of Aesop’s fables written over 2,000 years ago.  Teaching tales have immediate and enduring learning power.  One famous example:

A Zen student is quite pleased with the progress he feels he’s making, especially after being invited to have tea with the Zen master.  The teacher pours himself some tea, then starts pouring some into the student’s cup.  He keeps pouring until the hot liquid spills over and onto the lap of the student who jumps up angrily. The Zen master looks down at the overflowing cup and says to the student, “Your mind is like that cup.”


The pessimistic takeaway from Big Blue demoralizing the human world chess champion and AlphaGo shocking the Go game world is that it signals computers are taking over the world and will eventually make human intelligence negligible.

But there’s a story which points to a very different conclusion, one in which the most creative, unpredictable, enlightened leaps of understanding of the right hemisphere of the human brain integrates with the highest levels of computer intelligence.

The story is the plot line of the 1983 techno-thriller movie War Games.  At first the movie appears to be a relatively predictable teenage adventure flick, but soon, as described by renowned movie critic at that time, Roger Ebert, the story

“weaves a complex web of computerese, personalities and puzzles; the movie absorbs us on emotional and intellectual levels at the same time. And the ending, a moment of blinding and yet utterly elementary insight, is wonderful.”  

The final scene combines all three of the three effective learning strategies, trial & error, games and stories into a significant teaching tale for the 21st century.

Brief Plot Line:

A bored teenage computer whiz named David Lightman, played by Mathew Broderick, likes playing games with his computer.  As a lark, he hacks into his high school’s computer system and changes his grades along with his classmate Jennifer’s.  Later, while searching for interesting games on his computer, he taps into a system which doesn’t identify itself. Asking for games to play, he finds a list including chess, backgammon, poker and some more dramatic game titles such as “Falken’s Maze,” “Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare” and “Global Thermonuclear War.”

Unable to access the games he visits some older, more experienced hacker friends who suggest he try to find the site’s backdoor password, starting with the game “Falken’s Maze,” the first game listed.

Researching the name, Falken, David finds information about a Stephan Falken, an early computer intelligence researcher who tragically lost his son Joshua in an accident.  David tries using Joshua as the backdoor password and he unknowingly hacks into NORAD’s computer which controls the United States military nuclear arsenal.

Innocently, David asks the computer to play the game “Global Thermonuclear War.”  At this point, if you haven’t seen the movie, you can guess how the plot will thicken.

We learn the backstory:  After playing a nuclear war game, the military head of NORAD was discouraged that under pressure of a simulated Soviet Union nuclear attack, the U.S. personal responsible for launching a massive nuclear retaliation couldn’t “pull the trigger.”  So Falken and a colleague, John McKitrick, devise a computer system which takes over in case of an actual nuclear attack.

David, thinking he’s playing a fun game, takes the Soviet side and starts launching nuclear missiles. Despite the NORAD team quickly figuring out it wasn’t a real attack; the computer can’t distinguish between simulation and reality.  It continues moving towards launching an actual nuclear response.

FBI agents, who have tracked down David as the hacker and assuming he’s a Soviet agent, whisk him away in a van, then fly him, handcuffed to NORAD headquarters in Colorado as an espionage suspect.  David manages a creative escape and is met by his friend Jennifer who has driven to a meeting spot they agreed to over the phone.

They travel to a remote island off the coast of Oregon after researching that the former computer whiz who helped develop the NORAD computer program was living alone as a hermit, despondent over both loss of his young son Joshua and convinced that, given the anxiety prone weaknesses of humans, nuclear war was inevitable.

While Falken is impressed that David and Jennifer, just high school students, were able to track him down and make a plea for him to return to NORAD to help stop his computer creation from starting WWIII, his cynicism is so great, he turns them down. After Jennifer tries to convince him to stop the computer from launching as a tribute to his son Joshua, the following important dialogue takes place:

Falken:  Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?

Jennifer:  Yeah, of course.

Falken: But you don’t anymore.

Jennifer: No.

Falken:  Why?

Jennifer: Because it’s a boring game.  It’s always a tie.

Falken: Exactly.  There’s no way to win.  The game itself is pointless!  But back at the war room, they believe you                          can win a nuclear war.  That there can be ‘acceptable losses.’”


But just as David and Jennifer are convinced there’s no way to stop the nuclear destruction, Falken reconsiders, contacts some former military officials, and he, David and Jennifer are rushed to the secret NORAD headquarters.

Falken successfully convinces the general in command that the Soviet attack on the screen is a game simulation.  After tense moments, the general decides to wait for confirmation before launching a counter strike. When the targets on the screen show Soviet missiles detonating, the general hears from military on the target grounds that in fact there was no actual attack, the room erupts with applause.

But there’s a catch. The computer, following its coded instructions to override human reluctance to launch a necessary retaliation, seeks out the launch codes so it can launch the missiles itself.  The computer blocks out all attempts to change its decision, including instructions typed in by its inventor, Falken.  The computer is intent on starting launching nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union as retaliation.

With nothing to lose, Falken convinces the general to let David try to find a solution.  David tells the programmer to bring up all the available games on the screen.  As he and Falken quickly scan the screen they both realize a game is missing: tic-tac-toe.

David instructs the computer to play itself the simple game.  Remembering Falken’s using tic-tac-toe to confirm his pessimism, David has the brilliant intuitive flash of having the computer learn there are games which, when played by two good players, always produce “no-win” scenarios.  After learning, in a matter of minutes that there was no way to win a game of tic-tac-toe against itself, the computer shifts to the current “game”  it’s been playing: “Global Thermonuclear War.” After quickly reviewing every possible military strategy for nuclear warfare, it learns that no matter what strategy is used in the game, the result is “mutually assured destruction.”  No one can win.

On the oversized NORAD screen, the computer prints “WINNER:  NONE,” and verbalizes through its speech program that Global Thermonuclear War is a “STRANGE GAME…THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY.”

With seconds to spare, it stops the launching of the missiles.  It then asks if Falken would like to play “A NICE GAME OF CHESS?”


CODAThe Ultimate Game with a New Story


The interactions between human and computer intelligence as illustrated by Deep Blue, AlphaGo, AlphaZero and the movie War Games point to the potential leaps in knowledge and understanding emerging from trial & error, games and stories.

And all of these learning experiences point to the need to reconsider a “story” which has dominated the modern age following the Italian Renaissance and still prevalent today:  The Zero-Sum Game.

While seeing life as a competition has incited new discoveries and progress to a point, it’s now leading us towards the precipice of climate change devastation, widening economic gaps between the haves and have nots and psychological mass anxiety.

And collaboration, not competition is the key pattern generating the ultimate game we humans are playing:  EVOLUTION.

AlphaZero showed that computers can become more skillful at zero-sum games such as Chess, Go and Jeopardy where there is one winner, the rest losers, by taking human knowledge out of the loop and learning by playing against itself millions of times.

And we have been taught, erroneously, that evolution is a zero-sum game, “survival of the fittest” defined by winners and losers.  While there is plenty of competition in nature, predator/prey, etc, the deeper, more influential pattern is that of collaboration (mutual benefits).  Proof:  We humans survive in great part due to oxygen supplied by plants and trees.  On the other side of this mutually beneficial, collaborative equation, plants and trees require the carbon dioxide we breathe out.  Our relationship to plants and trees is great illustration of mutual benefits over zero-sum/win or lose relationships.  Even the predator/prey dynamic has had an inherent, intelligent balance (until humans came along).  Animals in nature kill only what they truly need to thrive.

We were taught a very limited and warped view of evolution. Darwin did not use the phrase “survival of the fittest” in his famous book, “Origin of the Species.”  It’s a phrase used by a contemporary of his, Herbert Spencer.  When Darwin later used the phrase, by “fittest,” he didn’t mean “strongest” or “most aggressive.”  He was using “fittest” to mean “most adaptive.”

As biologist James Shapiro has noted, evolution is not driven by “survival of the fittest”…It’s driven by novelty.  Without novelty, there would be no movement forward.

For us humans to stay in the loop as computers continue to exponentially increase their intelligence, already capable of teaching themselves and about to make a literal “quantum leap” and become quantum computers, then it will be human imagination (novelty) which will be key.

As noted in previous essays in this Next Renaissance section, the part of our brains which is most “adaptive” is the right-hemisphere which is wired to see past old boundaries and limitations and open up to a bigger picture, one with new, previously un-imagined potential.

This was anticipated by the man considered by many the greatest scientist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein:


I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. 


This is at the heart of the story in War Games where David gets INTO THE LOOP of the computer’s brain through a leap of imaginative insight, getting the NORAD computer to play against itself in order to understand some games can’t be won.

Why play a game that can’t be won?



Enjoy the quotes/links below.



“A good question is not concerned with a correct answer. A good question cannot be answered immediately. A good question challenges existing answers. A good question is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you cared before it was asked. A good question creates new territory of thinking. A good question reframes its own answers.

Founding Editor, WIRED Magazine, Kevin Kelly




For the first time in human evolution, the individual life is long enough, and the cultural transformation swift enough, that the individual mind is now a constituent player in the global transformation of human culture.

Social Philosopher, William Irwin Thompson









Essay #2: Synaptic Jumps / Quantum Leaps?



 “Our Time is a time for crossing barriers,

      for looking ahead,

         for probing around.”


This is one of many deep insights you’ll find on this web site going forward from the man called the Prophet of the Electronic Age, Marshall McLuhan.

McLuhan’s call for “crossing barriers,” on one important level, can be seen as a reference to the opening up the mind by literally crossing from the left-hemisphere of our brain through the anatomical barrier of fibers called the corpus callosum, to the right hemisphere.

While the left hemisphere of our brains, which dominates our educational, social and cultural systems, is wired to break things down into understandable parts and then analyze them to reach a clear conclusion, the right hemisphere is wired for “looking ahead and probing around,” actions more likely to generate imaginative leaps, exhilarating new insights, and new patterns of perception.

McLuhan, who was both revered as the go to media theorist and guru of the electronic age during much of the 1960’s and harshly criticized for uttering cryptic and puzzling phrases, was asked by a TV interviewer why he was so difficult to understand.  McLuhan answered, “Because I’m using the right hemisphere when they’re trying to use the left.”

McLuhan pointed out that all new media technologies re-wire the human brain in ways which at first often disrupt and disorientate before generating new gateways of perception (so, it’s not surprising to read so many apoplectic warnings about the dangers of the new gateway to expanded knowledge: The digital screen.)

As McLuhan pointed out in his book “The Gutenberg Galaxy,” the uncomfortable, disorienting rewiring of the brain by new media technology has been going on for millennia:

“If a technology is introduced either from within or from without a culture, and if it gives new stress or ascendancy to one or another of our senses, the ratio among all of our senses is altered. We no longer feel the same, nor do our eyes and ears and other senses remain the same.”



He then notes that Plato, one of the greatest philosophers in human history (in his dialogue, “Phaedrus” around 370 B.C.)  made clear his warning about the dangerous new technology of the alphabet and writing.  The alphabet and writing dangerous??? Plato was concerned that if people rely on writing instead of memorizing speech, they will too much be dependent on the external written symbols and lose their brain’s ability to “remember of themselves.”

Sounds similar to complaints from educators today that the digital screen is scrambling kids’ brains and students can’t remember what they read as well on the screen as they do from books.

I think we’d all agree that the invention of alphabets and written language was an evolutionary leap in knowledge, despite understandable concerns about how it would rewire the brain going forward.  And there’s a delicious irony Plato was well aware of when he wrote about his concerns about the new technology of writing:  He was expressing his insights through the medium he was warning against—the written word.



The Gutenberg Leap

Jump cut to the year 1439 as Johannes Gutenberg is unveiling the first print printing press using moveable type.  This revolutionary new technology opened up a whole new world, ripping apart the monopolizing grip of the church on both the content and access to knowledge and truth.  The printing press transformed science, the economy and communication.  At the same time, as had the invention of the alphabet and writing, the new experience of reading books caused severe disorientation and dislocation in the human brain.  Many worried at the time that people would isolate themselves, heads buried in books, deteriorating the art of conversation.

Neil Compton in a review of McLuhan for Commentary Magazine in 1965, explained McLuhan’s insight into the limitation of print technology:


“By translating all human experience into the visual, linear, sequential form of written sentences, and by mass-producing the result with the aid of the printing press, Western man has tended to alienate himself from deep involvement with his environment. “Numbed” into a “hypnotic trance” by his visual bias, ‘the bookman of detached private culture’ cannot cope with reality until it is processed into the linear, mechanical order of print.”



This ties beautifully into the need for a shift from left hemisphere dominance to a more right hemisphere thinking.  Breaking the world down into understandable, linear, sequential parts is the way the left hemisphere is wired.  It demands certainty and resists any attempt to break past its clearly defined territory.

Next Renaissance thinking requires this “crossing the barrier,” moving forward from  patterns of perception which served humanity in the past (brilliant technological achievements, but lacking the bigger picture of what technology and its accompanying materialism  have wrought (the Industrial Age pollution and now the potentially end game of climate change.

Let’s take a look at how the linear, orderly, sequential process of reading words, lines and sentences in a printed book, while fostering focused readings of interesting subjects on the one hand, limits the associative, synaptic leap powers of the brain on the other.

A good analysis of how our brains work when reading print can be found in the Scientific-American article, “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age”  by journalist Ferris Jabr.

One of its main conclusions, and the reason so many educators bemoan the amount of time students spend on digital screens, is because tests show that reading on the printed page is more conducive for “working-memory.”  If this sounds like a familiar refrain, earlier I pointed out Plato had the same concern about the invention of the alphabet and written language.  It should also be noted that more modern testing has shown that as the years go by and students (as well as most of the rest of us) get experience reading and researching on the digital screen “working-memory “gets better.

But for our purposes, helping to usher in the Next Renaissance, there’s a deeper point here:  What’s so great about “working-memory.?” Most of the school curricula currently in use are based on a 19th century industrial model which rewards students for memorizing facts in Pavlovian fashion, regurgitating them back on tests to show they understood what administrators who chose what books would be used wanted them to learn.

The word, “education,” has a very important etymology.  It come from the Latin phrase “to draw out,” i.e., to bring out one’s natural curiosities about the world, not to stuff in controllable information, which is still the favored mode of education at least up and through high school.

As the article linked to above points out, there is also a heavy “physicality” involved in reading books along with an unconscious sense of clearly defined boundaries no longer restricted on the digital screen.  There is a comfort in reading a book, knowing these boundaries are there.  But, also, a limitation, mostly subconscious, indoctrinating the sensibility that life is linear and has clear, definable boundaries.  As quantum physics and more recent scientific/philosophical breakthroughs such as Chaos theory, Self-Organization, Flow and Emergent theory reveal, nature, and for the most part, our brains are based on non-linear, unpredictable, synaptic jumps.

Maryanne Wolfe, whose doctorate is in human development and psychology, is quoted in the article:


 “In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable; they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text.”


But while it’s more comfortable right now for most of us to navigate through the single insights of one author writing in the familiar, measured lines of printed on pages in a book with clear boundaries, the full capacity of thinking is limited when seeing the world in linear, sequential order.

None of this is to imply that books are no longer relevant. The pleasures of reading text will continue to be a significant part of learning.  At the same time, the shift to the digital screen offers exponential leaps in exploring and synthesizing information.


The Shift to the Digital Screen

All the way back in 1945, Vannevar Bush, an inventor who worked on some of the early analog computers, anticipated both McLuhan’s insight and the World Wide Web:


With one item in its grasp, the human brain snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain”


This insight into the “intricate web of trails carried by cells of the brain” anticipates the connected network of the world wide web and the dynamic “snaps” of hypertext links which break through the limitations of a bounded page of print and open up “trails” of connected thoughts.

(NOTE:  Clearly the digital screen is being manipulated by advertisers and fake news snake oil salesmen and there is a serious problem with kids getting addicted to the screen.  While these problems need to be addressed, as previously noted, EVERY major new media technology “disorients” at the beginning and creates new “downfalls” along with greatly expanded “upsides.” Much of this can be understood through McLuhan’s insight:


“It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.” 


Adjusting to an entirely new media “framework” jolts the mind on both the unconscious and conscious levels, but, as history as shown, after initial disorientation and warnings, the new media leap us forward on our evolutionary trip.)

Another important point often ignored or forgotten by those admonishing the hyper speed/hypertext disorientation of the digital screen is how this new media technology, as with those before it, is expanding knowledge exponentially.

Writer and teacher Melissa Gouty, who clearly loves books and literature, nonetheless understands the economic and environmental advantages of the digital screen:

       “The cost of digital books is less than printed books, allowing schools and libraries to purchase more,               new inventory at a fraction of the cost. Readers can access online materials through free sites, giving               them resources that would not have been available if they have had to pay for print books.

         Digital resources don’t require physical space. No one has to build additional wings, construct shelves            or figure out where to house collections.  Online materials are not subject to mold, mildew, or theft like            print books are.

          Online materials are accessible at any time of the day or night, and deliverable within seconds. They              are portable and without weight.”


The New “Biliterate Brain”

The analogy which comes to my mind regarding the relationship of the digital screen to the printed page is that of Einstein’s revolutionary theory of relativity to Newton’s laws of cause and effect.  Einstein didn’t prove Newton wrong.  In fact, today Isaac Newton is still considered one of the greatest scientists of all time and his insights into the physical world remain highly relevant.  But Einstein did prove Newton’s insights to be limited. At speeds nearing the speed of light, new ways of looking at the world were needed in order to make the leap forward into the quantum age.

To use a phrase now becoming more popular, we need to become “biliterate,” that is, learn to use the distinct advantages of both the printed page and the digital screen while understanding they each wire our brains differently.

Melissa Gouty, addresses this in her article “Why You Need to Develop a Biliterate Brain—And How to Do It.”  She writes:


“We live in a modern world where we daily navigate the vast network of digital sources.  But we also have to be able to feel, understand and enjoy the depth of literature…

We NEED biliterate brains capable of both FAST and SLOW styles, looping and linear patterns to survive.

Digitally-developed brains are capable of flipping through visuals, assimilating ideas, jumping from thought to thought, and finding information FAST. Print-oriented brains allow us to SLOW DOWN, savor the language, and consider the implications of the words on our lives.”




We have left the world of one step at a time, linear, sequential thinking.

While continuing to experience the joys of sitting down with a good book and the need for slowing our brain waves down into contemplative insight, we are being pushed forward by the inevitable force of evolution into the sped up, hypertext, digital zeitgeist of the synaptic jump and quantum leap.

McLuhan anticipated this  back in the 1960’s when he stated,


“After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding” 


What’s called for to deal with systematic breakdown of  economic, social and political systems is a deep psychological paradigm shift in emphasis from the left-hemisphere focused point of view to a more right-hemisphere openness to probe novel, expansive regions of the human brain, to detect the rays of light which inevitably shine through the cracks of the systematic breakdown.

In the emergent Digital Age, with our brains extended outwards through the World Wide Web, we are adapting to a less fixed/linear/sequential reality to one allowing for a remixing of previous patterns of thought and more innovative, imaginative patterns of perception.  Disorienting, no doubt.  Frightening, if we stay controlled by our brain’s amygdala and restricted to the more certain, predictable confines of the left hemisphere.  As McLuhan made clear, this is a time “for crossing barriers, for looking ahead, for probing around.”

He also offered a therapeutic insight regarding the chaos, confusion and anxiety that accompanies the re-wiring of the brain through the invention of powerful new media technology such as the World Wide Web:

“Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools and yesterday’s concepts.”


 “There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”



Enjoy the quotes and links below:


“My thesis is that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities, two different modes of experience; that each is of ultimate importance in bringing about the recognizably human world; and that their difference is rooted in the bi-hemispheric structure of the brain. It follows that the hemispheres need to co-operate, but I believe they are in fact involved in a sort of power struggle, and that this explains many aspects of contemporary Western culture.”                    


                                                                           Psychiatrist, Neurolgy Researcher, author, Dr. Iain McGilchrist



“Traditional education gives little room for students to develop their creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking beyond predetermined, standardized boundaries. The next generation needs to be prepared to tackle not only the known, but also the unknown problems our world will face. Therefore, we must be forward thinking about how we train and inspire our upcoming generation…focusing more strongly on developing right-hemisphere potential, and corresponding values like intuition, creativity and empathy, is essential.”


Article about author Daniel Pink






Essay #1: Signs of the Next Renaissance?


It was a 6th century philosopher, Heraclitus, who provided an insight as true today as in his ancient times:

“You can’t step into the same river twice,

                 for other waters are continually flowing on.”  

While pointing to a deep universal principle of how nature works, the difference for us here in the 21st century is that the flow of time is moving at speeds never before experienced in human evolution.

The intention of this website is to shed light on three potential shifts in consciousness which reflect the sped-up, digitalized, globally-networked currents generating the current zeitgeist and which have the potential to bring forth the Next Renaissance.


The Shift from the left hemisphere of our brain to the right;

The Shift from the printed page to the digital screen;

The Shift from individual intelligence to Collaborative Intelligence.


(Note:  By “shift” I don’t mean leaving behind the important function of the left hemisphere of our brain, the importance of printed books or the relevance of individual intelligence.  But information will be offered on this web site showing that unless we shift more emphasis from  of a conscious emphasis to the right hemisphere, learn to maximize the expansive, creative potential of the digital screen and recognize the need for collaborative intelligence, the chances of bringing about the Next Renaissance become much less probable.

These three shifts in consciousness are so closely inter-connected that while we will look at them individually, it is what we can recognize from the combination of all three that will determine what new, breakthrough patterns emerge.


Welcome to the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain

If you Google left hemisphere and right hemisphere of the brain, you will mostly get over-simplified explanations such as the left hemisphere is logical and the right hemisphere more creative.

This is not an accurate picture.  Both hemispheres are capable of logic and creativity. The key distinction is best described in depth, backed by extensive research and philosophical insight by Dr. Iain McGilchrist

in his book, “The Master and his Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.” 


“When I say the ‘left hemisphere does this,’ or ‘the right hemisphere does that,’ it should be understood that in any one human brain at any one time both hemispheres will be actively involved.”

However, with the aid of modern neurological research, we now know that the two hemispheres of our brain perceive and experience the world in essentially different ways.

My thesis is that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities, two different modes of experience; that each is of ultimate importance in bringing about the recognizably human world…It follows that the hemispheres need to cooperate, but I believe they are in fact involved in a sort of power struggle, and this explains many aspects of Western culture.”


The left seeks understanding by breaking the world down into parts and analyzing how they fit together; the right sees the world more holistically, seeking deeper, more integrative patterns by exploring the unknown.  The left hemisphere, brilliant at creating technology and thinking rationally, cannot tolerate uncertainty.  It needs strict boundaries.  The right hemisphere is wired for imagination, context  and seeking a bigger picture of who we are and what we’re doing here.

The left hemisphere “grasps” for knowledge and gets frustrated with anything ambiguous or not fitting into its model of the world.  The right hemisphere is more empathic, seeing beyond its own limitations and open to  up new ways of looking at and understanding the deeper patterns of change.

The left hemisphere can brilliantly focus on and analyze individual trees, but can’t see the forest.

Iain writes,


“The left hemisphere’s version of reality works well at the local level, the everyday on which we are focused by habit…but it ‘frays at the edges’ once one pans out to get the bigger picture of reality.”

The right hemisphere is physically larger and better wired for compassion and “the importance of an open, patient attention to the world, as opposed to a willful, grasping attention.”


Iain’s key insight is that the dominance of left-hemisphere thinking over the past 500 or so years, while developing ingenious tools and technologies, has created modern cultures which lack empathy for deeper meaning and are obsessed with rigid certainties and a mechanistic view of what it means to be human.

Connecting to the last Renaissance

While the causes involved in the creation of any renaissance period are complex, they are always accompanied by a seismic, systematic breakdown.  In the case of the Italian Renaissance, the new, enlightened “humanist” philosophy was in large part a reaction to the devastation of the Black Plague which was well on its way to wiping out about 1/3 of the entire population of Europe.  The plague broke down societies and at the same time inspired one of the greatest flourishing of philosophy, art and science in human history.  (Here’s a link to a  fine article describing this.)

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, it has nowhere near the power to kill off 1/3 of modern civilization.  But climate change could if we don’t meet its challenge as evidenced in a well written recent article.

The author, Roy Scranton, is the director of the Notre Dame Environmental Humanities Initiative and a former soldier serving in Iraq.  While noting the systematic breakdown in Iraq society as a consequence of extended war and the even larger systematic breakdown of our environment taking place, Roy writes that


“Sometimes those breaks are openings.  Sometime those breaks are opportunities to do things differently.”


The depth of this most important insight, that systems breaking down are often wake up calls for initiating significant changes in perception and thought, was captured beautifully by one of the greatest poets of the modern age, Leonard Cohen:


                  “There is a crack in everything

                                     That’s how the light gets in”


The need to look for the light during the darkest times was also powerfully communicated one of the foremost dream experts Dr. Jeremy Taylor (who was a guest on my radio program over 40 times).  Jeremy frequently reminded us:


“Death” in the dream world is the single most frequent archetypal image of growth and development that the unconscious has to offer. (Dreams do depict psycho-spiritual growth and change in other ways, but death is by far the most common and universal.) Therefore, if I dream that I am being pursued by dream characters who are out to get me, it is usually a symbolic representation of fleeing from insistent interior promptings, telling me that it is time to grow and change and let go of some cherished notion about who I am.”


The urge fomented by witnessing the total breakdown of society from the 14th century Black Plague, along with the breakdown of the Catholic Church’s total grip on what could be said and thought, encouraged the retrieval of ancient Greek wisdom from writings which had been buried in monasteries during the Dark Middle Ages. The influence of this rediscovered wisdom began as one historian put it, “to recalibrate thinking when recirculated during the Renaissance.” (for a great read about this, check out “The Swerve:  How the World Became Modern.”

It is this same urge to “recalibrate thinking” that is now emerging, and which on this website and in the essays of this section will be viewed through the lens of the three shifts in consciousness noted at the beginning of this essay:

The Shift from the left hemisphere of our brain to the right hemisphere

The Shift from the printed page to the digital screen

The Shift from individual intelligence to Collaborative Intelligence


The New Paradigm

The biggest difference between the cultural environment of the 14th-16th Century Renaissance and now is the difference between the slow spread of information by labor intensive copying of handwritten scrolls (the invention of the printing press did not come until the later Renaissance in Northern Europe) compared to the instantaneous global communications network of the AI-driven world wide web.

What took years to retrieve the deepest ancient wisdom and share the totally new insights from science, art and philosophy back then can now take only minutes on the world wide web (the roots of the Perennial Philosophy just a computer keystroke away).

This is creating both paralyzing cognitive dissonance from information overload AND the potential for an explosive growth in insight and a synaptic leap in evolutionary thought.

Expanding computer intelligence has linked us all to a global network offering the unprecedented potential for collaborative human intelligence, creativity & transformation. At the same time the speed-up and 24/7 flood of communication are generating feedback loops filled with volatility, uncertainty and anxiety.

How do we keep our wits about us during the increased turbulence we feel coming our way every day so that we can detect the new, paradigm-shifting patterns emerging from underneath the turbulence of the 24/7 news cycle?


Are we headed towards the Next Renaissance?

Or towards Mass Anxiety?

Most likely, both.


One of the keys will be our ability to adapt the insight of the provocative media philosopher Marshall McLuhan:

“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”